Lee's Shannon Finnegan signs to play college soccer at Division II AIC


LEE — Shannon Finnegan has always been fast. Since the time she was a little freshman suiting up for varsity sports at Lee High School, speed has been her calling card.

So, after visiting American International College in Springfield for an ID clinic in December, it didn't take the Wildcats senior long to decide she wanted to be a Yellow Jacket.

Finnegan signed to join Division II AIC Thursday afternoon, a day after National Signing Day for NCAA Soccer, due to a snow day Wednesday. Surrounded by her parents, friends and the Lee girls soccer team, Finnegan made her college plans official.

The actual decision came a couple months earlier.

"That was when it really just clicked and I made my decision," Finnegan said of her workout at AIC with coach Kevon Isa. "It's exciting. I've wanted to do this as long as I can remember. Going Division II is a really big dream of mine, from a small town, it's really exciting."

Finnegan will join the Yellow Jackets, who went 5-9-4 last season, but reached the NCAA tournament in 2016, on partial academic and athletic scholarships.

A four-year varsity soccer player at Lee, Finnegan long dreamed of playing in college, but things didn't quite materialize as a real possibility until she started on the club circuit as a junior.

"My junior year it started becoming a reality," said Finnegan, who joined the club team Black Rock FC. "I want to thank those coaches for pushing me and bringing me to these tournaments with college coaches. That's the first time I started reaching out to coaches, mostly Division III."

Finnegan was bracketed by her parents, including mom, Lauren, the varsity soccer coach at Lee.

"There were a handful of smaller colleges that expressed interest in her after some showcases. It was the AIC coach who really reached out, invited her to come to campus and do a workout," said Coach Finnegan. "She went and got a really good vibe with him, and when we left there, she said 'this is it, this is where I want to go'."

The speed with which she declared and the speed with which she has spent four years terrorizing Berkshire County defenses are what Isa picked up on during her visit to AIC. The school was at a winter club tournament in November and Finnegan stood out as a member of Black Rock. The two connected, Isa went back and watched some tape and invited the Wildcat forward in for a workout.

"She always loved soccer, but it was always maybe she'll play, maybe not, but as she matured and developed and realized that this truly is something she wants to do at the next level, then we started play club, getting her into clinics," said Coach Finnegan, who, along with her own parents, traveled all over for clinics and games. "It's a lot of work, but at the beginning of last year we really started thinking this could happen."

Finnegan relied on family and friends during the decision process, and though she doesn't know anyone at AIC, she's excited for the opportunity.

"I hope to meet the freshman that'll be on the women's soccer team, but I don't know anyone right now," said Finnegan. "I think it's exciting. I love to meet new people. I only have friends from this school pretty much, so it'll be a fun experience that first day."

Along with achieving a life-long dream of playing college soccer, Finnegan will spend the rest of her time at AIC in the classroom working towards another goal. She'll be entering the school's nursing program to try and do something she claims to have desired since preschool.

On the field, Finnegan's speed and left foot will set her up to potentially see minutes as a freshman in the left midfield or up at forward.

"If I keep working how I am now, I'd see some minutes, which is exciting, because with Division II I wasn't really sure what I was getting into," Finnegan says she was told by her new coach. "The change is going to be huge. Competition in Berkshire County is hard, but playing at a college level, I've watched many college games, and it's a whole new level. It's going to be exciting. I'm looking forward to it."

And a mere 40 minutes from Lee High, AIC home games won't require much of a journey for her old coach to come see her former player..

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com, at @CLNS_Walsh and 413-496-6240.


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