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Leonardtown native and 2009 Leonardtown High School graduate Dana O誰eill needed to make some important commitments.

Those decisions are now paying dividends for her.

Her first few years on the women痴 soccer team at Slippery Rock University (Pa.) were much like a yo-yo. She said it was a struggle as she went from playing to not playing, but she said she knew head coach Noreen Herlihy saw something in her.

的 realized I didn稚 want to take the starting position [as goalkeeper] for granted, O誰eill said. 典his season was definitely the highlight for me. It痴 the first time I致e been recognized. I knew that now as a co-captain that I was taking on a leadership role and the freshmen and sophomores were looking up to me.

O誰eill wanted to pass on a winning legacy at Slippery Rock. She knew all too well what it was to wrestle with yourself as a young player. She said she took on so much of the blame if her team lost.

鄭s a freshman, it affected me so much. I was in my own head a lot, O誰eill said. 的 had to overcome that and those years prepared me for this season.

This fall, O'Neill started in all 23 games. She posted a record of 14-6-3 with 10 shutouts, an 0.80 goals against average and an .812 save percentage.

O誰eill assisted in leading Slippery Rock to a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Sweet Sixteen, allowing just six goals in the team's final 11 games. In the postseason, she allowed just one goal in three games over a four-day stretch in the conference playoffs.

O誰eill said she痴 now seeing how much her decision to attend a Division II program was the right decision for her.

的n a Division I school, your sport is your life, O誰eill said. 滴ere it痴 50-50. I知 happy with my choices and I get the chance to focus on my studies. My dad, Jeff O誰eill, was happy to hear when I told him.

O誰eill is carrying a 3.4 GPA. She majors in health and physical education and minors in coaching and is now the top goalkeeper in the PSAC and the Atlantic Region, earning first team All-PSAC, Daktronics first-team All-Region and NSCAA first-team All-Region honors.

Adding to those honors, O誰eill was recently named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America College Division Scholar All-America team for her outstanding performance on the field and in the classroom. She is the first athlete from Slippery Rock to receive this recognition.

O'Neill is one of just three goalkeepers in all of NCAA Division II, NCAA Division III and NAIA to be named to the NSCAA College Division Scholar All-America team.

的 am very proud of Dana for earning this prestigious honor, Herlihy said in a Slippery Rock press release. 鉄he had an outstanding year on the field, but more importantly she is also excelling in the classroom. This is a very deserved accomplishment.

O誰eill said she will always be grateful for the time and attention her father put into her soccer career.

滴e used to always take me to club soccer. He was and still is supportive, O誰eill said of her father. 的 appreciate his love and support. I don稚 always say it, but I am grateful for everything痴 he痴 done. He surprised me when he came to the semifinals at California University [Pa.]. He drove the six hours to watch me play. I thought I壇 heard his voice in the stands halfway through the game and I looked, but I couldn稚 see him. It was great to have him there.

O誰eill also values the expertise and friendship she痴 gotten from Herlihy.

鉄he痴 one of the best coaches I致e ever had, O誰eill said. 鉄he has shown a good balance of coach and friend. She goes out of her way to teach you something. She痴 always seen my potential and she痴 pushed me to my limits. I don稚 think I would be the player I am today without that.

Slippery Rock has now posted 17 consecutive winning seasons, all of which include 10 or more wins, a streak that ranks as the eighth-best in Division II history.

O誰eill is a senior academically and will return next year to play.

徹ur team is looking good, we already have 8 to 10 new signups. she said. 的 just look forward to the season and to continue to do this well.

O誰eill plans to attend graduate school for adapted physical therapy and said she壇 like to reside in North Carolina after she graduates, but she痴 not ruling out Southern Maryland. She said it all depends on where openings are for her career path.

tshowalter@somdnews.com