LENOX — Alessandra Arace was all smiles Wednesday afternoon. She didn't have to think about whether she was happy or relieved to have signed her Division I National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Providence.
"Both, definitely both," said Arace, after the mid-afternoon ceremony held in the Lenox High School gymnasium.
Arace, who scored 32 goals for the Western Massachusetts Division IV finalist Millionaires in the fall, had verballed to the Big East Conference school in the summer of her junior year. Almost two years later, she put pen to paper.
"It feels really good to finally get it done," she said.
Arace was surrounded by her family and members of the Lenox soccer team as she signed the LOI.
"It means a lot. Ever since I can remember, going D-I has been a dream for me," said Arace. "Now I have it right in front of me. It's a nice feeling."
She'll be playing for a Providence squad that went 13-8-1 last year and advanced to the Big East finals before losing to Butler in the championship game.
"I think she's going to be a great addition to the program," Providence coach Sam Lopes said when reached at his office. "She has a warrior mentality when she plays. I think she'll be good with our back line."
Lopes, who just received a five-year contract extension earlier in the week, said Arace will be converting to a fullback position with the Friars. Lopes said that converting her to the back is just part of the Friars' plan.
"We like recruiting players that have an attacking DNA," he said. "They're going to contribute to the style we play because that's part of their makeup."
Arace plays club soccer for the FC Stars, based out of Lancaster. She will be joined at Providence by Stars teammate Shelby Hogan.
After signing the papers and posing for photos with classmates and family members, Arace was asked about the year leading into her signing. She said that knowing she was committed to Providence was a weight off her shoulders.
"There was definitely less pressure. It took a lot off of me to not be stressing about colleges," she said. "I was watching my friends and they were all stressing about schools, especially in the fall."
Lenox girls soccer coach Kyle Zinchuk has coached Arace for the past three years. He was at the table with Lenox athletic director Joan Schultz when the Friar-to-be signed the Letter of Intent.
Arace and her family might have been beaming during the ceremony, but so was Zinchuk.
"We kind of had an idea before the season that we wanted to do something like this. Just to have a day for her to kind of shine and have the focus be on her," said the Lenox coach. "All through the season, not just on the field but she's such a role model for all of our girls.
"She was trying to push this off because she's all about the team. It's nice to put her in a situation where she has to take some recognition for what she's been able to accomplish."
The three schools under consideration for the soon-to-be Lenox graduate were PC, Syracuse and Boston College. While all three are very good schools and have quality women's soccer programs, Arace said she knew Providence was the best fit for her.
"It's just a great school and soccer program," she said. "I remember when I stepped on campus, I knew I wanted to be there for four years."