Lexie Krall made the decision she would pursue a college with Division I girls soccer program as a freshman in high school, but almost every coach she encountered told her she was too small.
She didn't care. She had been playing since she was 4 years old and had plans to stay with the sport for as long as possible. Four years later, she is a rising freshman at University of North Carolina — Wilmington, already on campus practicing with the Division I women's soccer squad.
"I had my mind set that I was going to play D-I, and I didn't care that anyone told me I was too small. I just didn't care," Krall said. "I've always been told I was too small by lots of coaches, and because of that I shouldn't even look at D-I programs. I wasn't going to let other people tell me I couldn't do it."
Krall, a 5'3" forward, didn't have the easiest path to a Division I program. She had her naysayers, starting with those running her longtime club team, which cut her before the start of her sophomore year at Oakton High School. Though upset with their decision, she never thought her soccer career would end with a single obstacle.
"I always knew that wasn't going to let that bring me down and make me quit," she said. "I was disappointed and not quite sure where to go, but I knew I'd keep playing. It wasn't even a question."
She made the Herndon RFC Arsenal team, where Coach Kris Hazard believed in her ability to play with team full of juniors as a sophomore in a team that traveled from showcase to showcase.
"He basically gave me a chance and played me a lot. I gained a lot of confidence in myself," Krall, 18, of Oak Hill said. "Plus I was playing on a team filled with girls who also wanted to play in college, so that helped me develop, too."
Her confidence continued to build as she put in the work with both her club teams and the Oakton High varsity squad, where then-Coach Kasey Davenport recognized the determination and natural ability that eventually made Krall a starter who led the Concorde District in scoring her junior year.
Despite solid performances in various showcases for Division I recruiters, Krall kept being overlooked because of her small frame. So she decided to take matters into her own hands.
In her junior year, she began researching various Division I programs and came across UNCW, a school she saw herself interested in for both its athletics and academics. She contacted the coach, who agreed to see her play on several occasions. After an official visit in April 2011, she had a commitment to a Division I program.
"I loved everything about the school, and I just knew it was the place for me," Krall said.
UNCW's Coach Paul Cairney recognized her tenacity from the start and has faith her work ethic will serve her well.
"She's determined and has a healthy confidence. She knows it's going to be a challenge at UNCW and she's willing to accept that challenge," Cairney said. "She's got a good level of physical speed and technique, and she knows the game well. She's small but tough enough to hold her own."
Krall plans to continue working hard to prove her skills at the collegiate level, determined to work her way into a starting position as a Seahawk.
"I just love playing soccer, so I'll do what it takes to keep playing," Krall said.