The tweet pinned at the top of Lexie Kopko’s Twitter page (@LexieKopko) tells you nearly everything you need to know about her college choice.
The tweet has a picture of Kopko sitting on a stone wall, bathed in bright sunshine during a warm southern day. She’s wearing shorts and a big smile, and her arms are spread wide open under a sign that reads: “USF: University of South Florida.”
That picture, in a snapshot, explains exactly why the Kennard-Dale High School standout has decided to give a verbal commitment to play NCAA Division I softball for USF, which is located in Tampa.
Kopko made the commitment earlier this week, even though the 6-foot junior won’t be able to officially sign her national letter of intent for more than a year.
“I always wanted to go to school far from home,” Kopko said. “I wanted to go to school down south because you can play year ‘round, and I love the beautiful weather.”
Despite making her choice long before she can make her decision official, Kopko doesn’t expect she’ll change her mind, now or in the future.
“I chose USF because I went for my official visit this past weekend and I fell in love,” she said. “I loved the players, coaches and atmosphere. It felt like family, and I really knew that that was the place that I was gonna call home for four years.”
Softball takes priority: Kopko has also excelled in basketball for the Rams, but her heart always belonged to softball.
“I chose to play softball in college because I’ve always loved the game and I always dreamed to play Division I softball since I was a little girl,” she said. “I had options to play basketball in college, but I knew I wanted to play softball and my heart will never change.”
For the Bulls, Kopko expects to play first base and outfield, and also possibly pitch.
As a freshman at K-D, Kopko hit .438 with four homers and 32 RBIs. She bettered her average as a sophomore, hitting .525. She also boasted a 0.00 ERA over five games in limited action as a pitcher last season.
She’ll be headed to a program, coached by Ken Eriksen, that finished 39-23 overall a season ago, including a 14-7 mark in the American Athletic Conference. The Bulls qualified for the NCAA Division I playoffs for the 13th time in Eriksen’s 22-years at USF. Eriksen is also head coach of the USA national team.
Kopko plans to study bio-medical sciences at USF and hopes to become an anesthesiologist.
Lot left to do at K-D: Before that, however, Kopko has more than a little unfinished business with the Rams. She plans to play basketball again this winter and softball in the spring.
The K-D basketball team is coming off a state playoff win last season — a first in school history. The Rams finished 15-13, with Kopko leading the team in scoring at 11.9 points per game.
K-D has really thrived in softball, compiling a 35-5 record over Kopko’s first two seasons, including a District 3 Class 4-A title in 2017 and an undefeated regular season in 2018. The Rams won the Division III regular-season crown in each of those years, going 27-1 in D-III contests. She counts the softball district title and winning a state basketball playoff game as the highlights of her K-D athletic career thus far.
“I hope this softball season we go undefeated again and win back our district title,” Kopko said. “I also want to make an appearance in states and make a long run toward the state title."
Kopko emphasized that none of her achievements would have been possible without her parents.
“(They’re) always pushing me to do my best and supporting me in all of my endeavors,” she said.
Reach Steve Heiser at email@example.com.