Reese Alley had opportunities to play college soccer at the highest level, but was wary of the time commitment required of Division I athletes that often equates to a full-time job.

Alley’s academic strengths meant she had her pick of colleges, allowing her the freedom to find just the right match for the criteria she established.

She selected one of the top universities in the country – and will have the chance to play college soccer as well.

Alley plans to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where she will also be part of the Engineers’ soccer program. Alley affirmed that commitment Friday morning during a ceremony in the PCHS auditorium.

The celebration was rooted in soccer, with teammates and head coach Lennox Charles on hand. But Alley’s college decision sprang solely from her academic intentions.

“Definitely school was the biggest thing for me, and it was just a bonus that I got to play soccer,” Alley said. “A lot of the schools that I liked were D1, and I didn’t really want that because it’s a way bigger commitment level and I wanted to have time to explore other things in college.

“MIT was the perfect balance because it has the high academic level of a lot of the schools that I liked, but it also had the opportunity for me to play D3 soccer and have time to do other things.”

Alley made her college selection after attending the school’s recent Campus Preview Weekend. The on-campus visit assuaged the remaining concerns she had about MIT, located in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston.

“Prior to that weekend, the thing I wasn’t sure about was the social aspect, because I know a lot of people have this view of the school being a bunch of nerds,” Alley said. “I was a little nervous about that environment. I went up, and I met a lot of the other recruits and girls on the team and some of the other athletes, and I really liked everyone I met. So that checked the last box for me.”

The Engineers finished 17-3-3 last season, reaching the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament before losing to Amherst.

A fixture in Polk County’s lineup since her freshman season, Alley has primarily played in midfield during her career, though she’s seen action throughout the lineup. She will finish as the school’s career leader in assists and has served as a team captain this season for the Wolverines.

Alley has primarily been a defender in her club career, including this past season when her Highland Football Club 01 Red Girls team won the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association Premier Division as a U18 team. Charles envisions her having no trouble playing anywhere at MIT.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of girls who academically perform really well. I think that’s a plus for us on the field as you have to have commitment and be disciplined,” Charles said. “Reese is driven, she’s competitive. (Going to MIT) is really all about her. Her work and her commitment to make it happen is really why we’re here.

“No matter where they put her, she’ll excel. She does all the technical things well and athletically can do what she needs to do. She may have a transition period, but I expect she’ll do pretty well. Just like with us, I expect she’ll have an impact on their program before she’s through.”

While still focused on helping Polk County advance in the 1A playoffs and completing her senior year, Alley is ready to embrace the athletic and academic challenges that await at MIT.

“It’s really exciting for me to be able to play at the next level,” she said. “Even with club, there’s always been a couple of people on every team I’ve been on that haven’t put everything they have into the game. I feel like at the collegiate level, everyone that’s playing really wants to be there and cares about the sport and the team they’re playing on. I’m really excited to be in that environment and see what kind of potential I have as a player.

“From the start that hasn’t been anything I’ve been worried about (at MIT) as far as good classes and good teachers and giving me good connections, because that’s one of the biggest things they’ve known for. I’m excited to be surrounded by people that are so intelligent all the time. But I also really liked that when I went there, they really emphasized collaboration, and the teachers assign problem sets with the intention that you work together on them. Obviously everyone there is smart, so there’s no need for people to be climbing upon each other to get to the top. It’s a very collaborative environment, and I’m excited about that.”

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