09/24/2019 5:05 AM
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When he was in eighth grade, Andrew Williams was visiting potential schools to go to high school, and once he stepped on campus at St. Peter's Prep, he knew he'd found his home.
Three years later, he found that feeling again.
Growing up, the Leading Edge 2020 attackman frequently took trips to Cape Cod with his family, spending parts of every summer and winter on the Cape. His father, Todd, spent childhood vacations and passed along that tradition to his family.
"Being in Massachusetts, I love everything about the state," Williams said. "It's unreal, and Wellfleet has a little town area with plenty of cool shops and restaurants. There's a ton of fresh water ponds and a bay, which are great, because we stay away from the beaches. I think there was a shark sighting every day this summer with great whites."
Aside from those suboptimal ocean conditions, Massachusetts has treated Williams and his family well, and when he started looking at schools, he had an inkling that he might end up back there. Despite that, it took some time for his recruitment to materialize before Merrimack came into the picture.
"Merrimack wasn't even on my radar until the end of the summer," Williams said. "They first saw me at the NLF National Championships at UMass, and we got it going from there. At the beginning of the summer, I thought that I'd end up at a Division III school, but I've always wanted to play Division I, and when the opportunity arose, I couldn't turn it down."
Williams, who buried 27 goals as a junior, jumped at the opportunity to join the Warriors, who will make the jump to Division I this year after winning back-to-back Division II national championships. He's the first player in Leading Edge history to choose the school. The allure of joining both a highly-successful and new-to-Division-I program played a sizeable role in Williams' decision, as did the notion of going back to a state that has treated him so well before.
"I love the area, obviously, and they have great facilities and (Merrimack head) Coach (Mike) Morgan has instilled a great culture there," Williams said. "Coach Morgan talks about how they don't want to be mediocre right off the bat. They want to win right away, they scheduled very competitively and it's just an amazing culture around the program. I want to major in something in liberal arts, and Merrimack has plenty of options."
Williams remembers making the switch to Leading Edge from a smaller club in his sophomore fall, and making the move might as well have been changing worlds. He always wanted to play at the next level, but when he came over, he realized just how much work he had to put in.
"It was truly eye-opening moment," Williams said. "I knew I wasn't playing at the highest level that I could play at, but I didn't understand how big and fast everyone else was, and how fast the ball moved. It was very humbling, and playing at that level, if you have a weakness, you're going to get picked apart so easily. If you're not playing at the speed you need to be playing at, the ball's out of your stick."
With his goal firmly in his sights and the new understanding of what it took to get there, Williams started to slowly but surely improve on one of the best 2020 teams in the country, one that features 17 commitments, including 14 Division I verbals.
"The amount of talent on our team is crazy, and the way we practice, it's not a club practice. It's like a college practice," Williams said. "They're very serious practices, and when I'm playing with these guys, it's really allowed me to play to my strong suit. I'm an off-ball guy and I'm good at finding seams and finishing on the crease, and with the guys around me, I'm getting the ball put in the perfect place all the time."
"I also wouldn't be where I am without (Leading Edge director) Chris Roy and (Leading Edge coach) Tim Roy," Williams added. "They're tough love kind of guys, and that's the best kind of coaching you can receive. I want to know what I'm doing wrong, and if you screw up, you should get chewed out. I think their coaching made me focus more on the little things and definitely made me a better player."
Chris Roy got to see Williams emerge into a bonafide Division I prospect who was a vital cog in the Leading Edge attack. It's another example of a player who saw what he needed to do to reach his goals, put in the work and took to coaching, and it's particularly rewarding for Roy to see Williams land at at a program that's in such an exciting transition stage.
"Andrew has excelled off ball at burying anything inside, and he does a terrific job of understanding offensive concepts and how the defense is adjusting to him and how he can counter that," Roy said. "He saw how much work he had to put in to get to where he wanted to be, and he was more than happy to work for it. You love to see guys like that get rewarded for it, and we're thrilled that Andrew found a great home in a state that he enjoys so much. We're hoping to see him light it up for the new guys on the Division I block."
History indicates that he just might do that.