Breece puts lid on excellent career at MC

By Michelle Pope
STAR STAFF
mpope@starhq.com

   It's not very often that a college has bragging rights to an athlete who excels in two sports while pursuing a demanding major in the meantime. However, Milligan College found that athlete in senior softball and soccer player Andrea Breece.
   The nursing major from St. Petersburg, FL was a four-year softball standout at Milligan, leading the team in hitting all four years, as well as being named an All-Conference player each year she played. Breece was named NAIA Region 12 player twice, and obtained the honor of being team MVP.
   Having spent her four years of softball eligibility by her fifth and final year at Milligan, Breece went to women's soccer coach David Dixon to see if she could again pick up the sport she enjoyed in high school.
   "It's kind of a goofy story," Dixon recalled. "She came to me and asked about playing. She had to be here for another semester anyway." Dixon said yes.
   "I had recruited a goalkeeper from Canada, but she tore her ACL, and decided not to come to school. We found that out a week and a half before the season started," Dixon said. "(Breece) came in expecting to be a contributor, and was pushed into starting for us."
   Breece began playing soccer when she was in middle school. She advanced into playing competitive soccer and softball at the age of thirteen. She continued playing both sports competitively and for her high school until her sophomore year, when she was injured and had to undergo reconstructive surgery on her shoulder.
   At that point, she was forced to drop one sport on the competitive level. "I was really nervous about it," Breece said. "I stayed in softball after I got hurt because I was more comfortable in that."
   Breece continued softball during her college career, and when she became a fifth-year senior, the chance to play soccer was hers once again. "I missed soccer a lot and that opportunity became open," Breece said, so she took it.
   The soccer team, left without a starting goalkeeper, was more than happy with Breece's decision. However, with a four-year lapse of time since Breece had been on a soccer field, no one knew quite what to expect.
   "I was pretty nervous coming in," Breece said. "I trained with Coach Dixon a week before preseason. Everybody made me feel welcome coming onto the team. I felt pressured, but everybody was supportive, and that helped me get back into it easier."
   "She's the type of player that coaches like on a team," Dixon said of Breece. "She's hardworking; you always know what you're going to get out of her in training."
   Dixon said Breece settled in well with the girls on the team who had practiced together their entire college careers. "Off the field, she fits in well with the other girls," he said. "She's the perfect teammate."
   Of course, because Breece hadn't played soccer since her senior year in high school, there was some adjusting to do. "Goalkeeping is a tough position," Dixon said. "If you make a mistake, everybody knows, because the ball goes in the goal."
   Dixon compared the goalkeeper position to that of a baseball or softball pitcher, explaining that it's tough for an unpracticed goalkeeper to slip back into the high demands of such a key defensive position.
   "The normal things that you're rusty at after not playing for four years, she was rusty at, but she did really well in games, and in the playoffs, she did well. She helped us stay in a few games."
   Breece, who led the conference in shutouts, with six, helped the Milligan soccer team win the conference title, and advance to the regional semifinals. She made 100 Milligan career saves and had a goals-against average of 1.50.
   During her softball career at Milligan, Breece finished with a .965 fielding percentage and .393 batting average. She totaled 35 hits, 27 runs, 30 RBIs, and collected only four errors during the entire four years.
   Dixon attributed Breece's quick adjustment to her extraordinary athletic ability. "She played every minute of every game," he said. "She's a great athlete, and great softball player. She's strong, athletic, and has quick hands. If it weren't for her athletic ability, she probably wouldn't have done as well."
   Breece was a bit apprehensive about charging onto a team that had played together for years without her. "It was challenging to develop relationships," she remembered. However, she was warmly embraced by the team.
   "I got married over the summer, so I wasn't in the dorms. Only one of the other girls was in nursing, so it was hard to develop a close relationship with them," she said. "But they always welcomed me. The team was really supportive and helped me get used to it, and helped calm my nerves. I felt very blessed by that."