As you might expect from one of the country's top young female goalkeepers, Amador Valley High senior Lexi Nicholas seems perfectly positioned for success.
Nicholas, a Notre Dame-bound soccer star and under-18 women's national team pool player, will be among 20 Pleasanton Rage players participating in the club's College Signing Night on Feb. 5.
She's over-the-moon about being able to play for the Fighting Irish, which advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
"I'm really, really excited," Nicholas said. "I can't even think of words in the English language that would describe how excited I am, just how close it is now. When I committed junior year it was exciting then, but now that I'm in a countdown, less than six months, it's like that excited feeling you get when you're looking forward to something, and it's right there."
The Irish will have a new coach next season after Randy Waldrum resigned on Jan. 3 to coach professionally.
Soccer stars run in the Nicholas family. Lexi's twin sister Brianna, an Army commit, has been excellent as a Dons center back.
"She's doing really well," Lexi said of Brianna. "For our club team, she plays forward. She got recruited by West Point as a defender. ... She decided to try it out in high school, and she's been fantastic. She's a natural-born defender."
Lexi, who started the lengthy college process in her freshman year, picked Notre Dame over Dayton and Virginia. She felt comfortable during a visit to the Irish's campus, after being impressed when she first saw them play at Santa Clara University as a freshman.
"I ended up at a school that is fantastic," she said. "I'm so blessed to have been considered by them and to be committed there. It's been a grueling but great process."
Lexi, who has been battling a high ankle contusion injury, has helped young Amador Valley to a solid season so far. The Dons opened the week at 8-5-1 overall and 4-4 in the East Bay Athletic League.
She has some big soccer dreams.
"I have these long-term goals of one day playing for my country, wearing the U.S. jersey at a World Cup or the Olympics," she said. "A short-term big goal right now is to make the roster and play at the 2016 U-20 World Cup."
During the 2010-2011 season, Amador Valley had a freshman team that put others on notice that the varsity team would soon be one of the best in the East Bay.
Last season, the team went 11-10-4 and reached the North Coast Section playoffs. Now, with a large group of talented seniors, the Dons are a top contender in the EBAL and, most likely, also in the NCS Division I playoffs next month.
"We felt we made some good progress last year, and much of our core group were returning as seniors," Amador Valley coach Scott Berglin said. "We have a good mix of size, speed, skill, and heart. But maybe most important is team chemistry. These guys really enjoy each other and the game itself."
Amador Valley entered the week ranked No. 11 in the Bay Area News Group's East Bay rankings with a record of 12-3-2. A win over De La Salle and a draw against Pittsburg have proved they are a legit contender.
The Dons have 15 different players who have scored goals, led by 15 from Tyler Pangia, and a defense that has allowed only 14 goals all year.
-- Matt Smith, correspondent