Lexi Prillaman tied the University of Richmond women’s soccer record with four goals in a game this season against James Madison University, but the performance was just another highlight in a dominant season and career for the star forward.
Coming up big in important games has become second nature for Prillaman, associate head coach Mika Elovaara said.
“Every year she has had important goals for us," Elovaara said. "She is a player for big moments… to pick [the JMU game] would almost undermine the fact that she has had so many of those moments already.”
Prillaman has dominated at every level of soccer she has played, becoming a two-time high school All-American and two-time Gatorade Player of the Year for her home state of Delaware. During her first two seasons at Richmond, she has ranked among team leaders in goals and assists.
Excelling early on
Growing up, soccer was always a huge part of Prillaman's life. She said she played well in other sports, but soccer was always her passion.
“There’s something about soccer,” Prillaman said, “Soccer has been a way for me to escape everything else and when I was on the field it was just about me and the ball.”
She made her first travel club team in the third grade after a coach saw her play in a local recreation league game. Success did not come easy for her, especially not at first, her father, Derek Prillaman, said.
During her first travel season, she didn't score a goal. “At the end of that season she came up to me and asked, ‘Daddy do you think I will ever score a goal?’" her father said. "And I said, ‘Honey I think you have many goals in your future.’”
His prediction came true. Prillaman entered high school and made the varsity team as a freshman. She attended Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Delaware, starting all four years. Her varsity coach Darrell Gravatt said she was one the best players he had ever coached and dominated in every aspect of the game.
“Skill wise, day one she was as good as any other player on the team and went on to be better than anyone on the team by far and better than anyone in the state of Delaware,” Gravatt said. “She was a woman among girls in most of her games. She annihilated competition for us and we won a lot of games with her.”
She put hours of work into both soccer and her studies, he said. She was a National Honor Society Member, an Honor Roll student and made Academic All-Conference, to go along with her athletic accolades.
Despite all of these successes, Lexi’s father said that her one of her greatest attributes was her humility. “A lot of the times when Lexi receives awards, we hear through other people or we read about it,” he said. “She is not one to boast.”
One of Lexi’s defining high school games came in her senior year in the state semifinals game, Gravatt said. The team played Charter School, which at the time held an undefeated record.
“We had a corner kick with less than ten minutes left and Lexi was marked by their best player,” he said. “Two of the best players of the state marked each other on that corner and Lexi buried a header. We won that game 2–1 to go the finals.”
Lexi has always prioritized team success over individual success, her father said. “It’s always about the team,” he said. “Throughout high school, she could have lots of more goals, lots of more points, but she always wants her team involved. She always wants her team involved and recognizes them.”
Bringing her humility to Richmond
Teammate Meaghan Carrigan said that Prillaman has maintained her team-first mentality in college. “Lexi is an unselfish player,” Carrigan said. “She’s super excited that she is doing well but more importantly she is just happy the team is succeeding and she can help in any way.”
Prillaman described her transition from high school soccer to the Division-1 level as a challenge.
“I came in as a freshman and was just a little twig, a little string bean,” she said. “I was intimidated and scared like every freshmen is.”
Prillaman's size and speed carried her through the youth and high school levels, but those attributes weren't enough to help her dominate play at the college level, her father said. “At the D-1 level, the level of competition on the field really forced her to work harder and work on her craft. She can’t just outrun everybody. She has to be more strategic, more technical.”
Prillaman put in hours of hard work to overcome these new obstacles, Elovaara said. He said one of the highlights of her freshmann year came when she scored to tie a game against Dayton within the last three minutes. He described that goal as “one of the best I’ve seen in my three years here.”
Prillaman made the Atlantic 10 All-Rookie Team and finished fourth on the team in points that year, but she said she knew she could play better.
“It wasn’t until sophomore year that I realized my potential and that I wanted to do more things with soccer,” she said. “I knew that I could push myself harder and contribute a little bit more. I started doing individual sessions and really started focusing on soccer.”
Since her freshman season, Prillaman has grown leaps and bounds, Elovaara said. “She has demonstrated that she is very coachable and wants to learn. She is continuously asking.
“She watches film every game we play for her individual development and for team review. She comes to the office with questions about how she can do better. She has developed tactically tremendously so that she can make use of her biggest strengths, which at this point are numerous.”
Dominating senior year, already
This year she is on pace to have her best season yet, leading the A-10 with 16 points and 7 goals. She attributes this success to the hard work she put in this past summer.
“I busted my ass this summer, putting in extra sessions,” she said. “If you want something hard enough you have to be willing to put in the work.
“And I was willing to put in all that work. I think Serena Williams has a quote where she says, ‘There are days when I don’t want to get up and work out but there’s never a day that passes that I want to lose.’ I don’t want to lose, and I have to remind myself that every morning.”
Even with all of her recent success, she said her focus is on helping her team. Her most memorable game at Richmond was not one in which she broke a record, but instead one that boosted the morale of the team, she said.
“Last year in our last game we were told that we wouldn’t be making the A-10 tournament,” she said. “We were playing VCU, one of our biggest rivals and we ended up beating them on their home turf 3–2. It was a great feeling beating a team that would be top seeded in the tournament.”
Although she may not know where life after Richmond will take her, she hopes that soccer remains part of life, she said.
“If my career extends past Richmond then that would be a dream come true,” Lexi said. “But if it doesn’t then I would embrace life as it is and see how I could stay involved in the world of sports, maybe on the business side of things, just trying to continue to give back to the sport that gave me life and to inspire other people”
For now, she said her focus remained on winning games here at Richmond.
“As athletes, especially female athletes, we try to use our platform to spread good in the world,” she said. “I know that one soccer team might not make much of a difference but I feel that we can set the bar high and set an example. This team has the ability to shock the nation and we have so much potential. I can’t wait to see how this season unfolds.”
Contact reporter Andrew Wilson at email@example.com