LUCAS - The Lovejoy athletic department enjoyed a large National Signing Day ceremony Nov. 13, seeing 10 Leopards and Lady Leopards make their commitments to playing at the next level official by signing their National Letters of Intent.
The athletes putting pen to paper included Lady Leopard volleyball's Jentry Allen (Stonehill College) and her teammate, Emma Johnson (St. Edward's University). Maddie Speicher, who played for the Lovejoy volleyball team for two years before pursuing beach volleyball, one of the fastest growing collegiate sports in the country, signed on with TCU to continue her beach career.
The Lovejoy softball team had a trio of athletes, as Leah Taylor (Tarleton State University), Carlee Schaeffer (St. Edward's University) and Mackenzie Mitchell (North Central Texas College) will all move forward to continue their careers on the diamond.
A pair of pool athletes also signed, as Ana Laura Faoro will attend the University of Connecticut to dive and Jed Jones will take his career's next step at Yale University.
Finally, girls soccer's Reagan Matacale will suit up for West Texas A&M, while cross country and track's Will Muirhead, one of the school's most decorated runners, will head to Oklahoma State.
For Speicher, the opportunity to both sign on with TCU for a sport that wasn't a collegiate option for many before her and to have beach volleyball provide her a pathway to an education is a blessing.
"I think it was really exciting, just because beach volleyball is more predominant on the West Coast. Some high schools in Arizona and California actually have beach as high school teams," she said. "In Texas, it's not very (popular), so it's kind of fun to commit for beach volleyball. It spreads awareness, and it's different."
Now, she's set her sights on helping TCU achieve something it hasn't yet on the beach.
"There are beach national championships. ... TCU's actually never made it to the championships, so far," she said. "But we have a really strong recruiting class, so I think, in the years to come, our goal is to make it to the championship and win it if we can."
Education was a priority for Jones throughout his recruiting process, which makes the opportunity to take his talents in the pool to Yale an even sweeter one.
He'll also follow in the footsteps of his elder sister, Raime, who currently swims for the Bulldogs.
"I knew I really wanted to go to a school with great academics, Yale being one of those schools. It was just a huge pull for me to go there," he said. "My sister's already there. I love the coach there, and the team there is amazing, so everything was pulling me there. ... I could not be more honored to go to this school."
While some athletes have a clear vision or top school entering their recruitment process, Muirhead said he didn't have either.
Instead, the prolific Leopard let his decision evolve from a series of visits.
"It was kind of long. I went on a couple of visits, but OSU is just where I felt like I should go. I like everything about it, and I'm really excited to go there," he said. "Before I went on any visits, I was open to anything. But, once I went on the visits, I knew it was where I wanted to go."
Now, with his collegiate career looming, he said he's appreciative of the memories and relationships he formed at Lovejoy.
"It was a great experience, overall," he said. "I made all my best friends through the team, and it'll be something I never forget."