ROCKINGHAM — Allyiah Swiney hasn’t played a single game with the Richmond softball team, nor has she spent an hour in a high school classroom, but the rising freshman has already picked where she wants to play college ball.
Swiney’s solid showing at one of the school’s camps “a little while ago” led to its coaching staff inviting her back to campus for an unofficial visit in early March — which ended up being the first and only trip she needed to make a decision.
And the next day, Friday, March 9, Swiney verbally committed to play softball at Duke University.
“I’m very, very excited,” said Swiney, who likes to play both the middle infielder and centerfielder positions. “I like the way they do things around there and I like what they are building. It’s a real family oriented-type place … and I can’t wait to be a part of the new program.”
The Blue Devils softball team, coached by former Big Ten Player of the Year Marissa Young, wrapped its inaugural season two months ago with a loss to Virginia Tech in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. It finished the 2018 season with a 29-27 overall record and had three players earn All-ACC honors.
Once she arrives in Durham, which won’t be until the fall of 2022, Swiney says she hopes to bring “mental toughness and athleticism” to a program that’s looking to make a name for itself in the coming years.
Wearing the Duke blue threads is going to take some getting used to, however, as the future Blue Devil grew up rooting for — and, to an extent, still does —the University of North Carolina, where her father, Lemuel, spent his college years.
Neither thought she’d ever suit up for the rival.
“It was a little tough to take in a first, that I’ll have to play for the rival of the team I’ve been cheering for my whole life, but whatever gets me where I want to be then I’ll go,” she said. “Wherever I can play and feel like I’m going to enjoy it.”
“Our house is divided now,” Lemuel laughed. “Everything in the house is Carolina and then her room is all Duke.”
His daughter’s very-early commitment means there’s going to be some pressure for her to deliver over the next four years, but his message to his youngest has been simple: stay humble, continue to work, and everything will take care of itself.
There was already going to be a target on her back, seeing that she’s joining a Richmond program that has proven to be one of the best in the state in recent years, but adding “Duke commit” to the equation makes it even bigger.
“I just tell her all the time that she can’t let the commitment get bigger than who she is. The real work starts once you become committed because now you need to make sure you’re perfecting your craft and staying on top of your game,” he said. “I’m just happy to be on the end where all of her hard work is paying off. I’m proud of her and all that she has accomplished.”
Swiney, a three-sport athlete, spent the past three years at Rockingham Middle School, where she won a pair of conference titles with the volleyball team and one each with the basketball and softball squads.
She expects to play all three sports once she gets to Richmond, which will give her the opportunity to play alongside her older sister, Allexis, who’s also a member of the Lady Raiders basketball and volleyball teams. Allexis is the starting goalie for the girls soccer team as well — earning co-Goalkeeper of the Year honors this past season.
“(I’m looking forward to) playing with my sister and on a more competitive level,” Swiney said of her upcoming high school career. “Being able to play the games that I love and having the opportunity to win a state championship.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. by phone at 910-817-2673 or by email at [email protected] For stories, scores and updates, follow the Daily Journal’s sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.