Madi with lacrosse team

Madi Atkinson (center) with Loras College lacrosse athletes during a recent visit. Atkinson will transition from soccer cleats to a lacrosse stick beginning this fall.

Vinton-Shellsburg’s Madi Atkinson came into senior year believing she had her future all figured out. She was going to Loras College in Dubuque to double major in Psychology and Spanish. On top of her studies, Atkinson planned to continue playing soccer in college, a sport she’d been playing as she can remember.

“I was verbally committed, I had toured the college, met the coach, all that stuff,” Atkinson said. “There was a lot to be excited about this past fall.”

But then the NCAA Division III Council announced that athletes would be given an extra year of eligibility to make up for last year’s cancelled season and shortened 2021 season. Atkinson was informed there was no longer a roster spot available for her due to enough seniors choosing to accept that extra year.

“I was pretty upset,” Atkinson said. “I thought I had a plan together. It made me think about where I wanted to go to school. But I really did enjoy Loras and I’m in a scholarship program there. I still wanted to go there for my studies.”

While looking at the Loras Instagram page, their lacrosse program popped up and piqued Atkinson’s curiosity. She emailed the coach asking about potentially joining the team, despite having never picked up a lacrosse stick in her life.

“I explained I was an athlete who loves to compete and be a part of a team,” Atkinson said. “The worst thing that could happen is the coach would say no.”

The coach replied back saying Atkinson was more than welcome to join the team, which was in need of players for the upcoming spring season. Atkinson went over to Loras to watch several matches and study how the game works. Lacrosse and soccer have parallels, including the use of a 100 yard field, similar positions and strategies.

“You defend one-on-one or in a zone like basketball,” Atkinson said. “They’re looking to use me as a midfielder like I played in high school. The coach told me I have the mental side figured out. It’s more about getting used to cradling a stick instead of kicking a ball.”

Whenever Atkinson sees lacrosse on her TV listings, she will turn on the game and watch with her dad. She’ll have her first exhibition competitions in the fall and the regular season will take place in the spring of 2022.

“I’m excited to try something new and challenging,” Atkinson said. “It’s great to know I’ll be part of a team again. That was the main reason I wanted to keep on playing in college. While it’s possible a roster spot may open up for soccer next year, I don’t think it’s likely. I’m ready to get started with my new family and focusing on playing right away potentially.”

Madi is the daughter of Kevin and Dawn Atkinson and graduated from Vinton-Shellsburg on Sunday. Outside of soccer, Atkinson was involved in basketball, bowling, Student Senate and National Honor Society.

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