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College of Charleston the perfect Place for former Demon soccer standout

Posted: February 18, 2016 1:25 p.m.
Updated: February 19, 2016 1:00 a.m.

LUGOFF-ELGIN SENIOR Andrew Place signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and soccer pursuits with the College of Charleston while flanked by his parents, Denise and Tim Place. Standing, from left, are L-E athletic director Matt Campbell, L-E head soccer coach Paul Witt, L-E junior varsity soccer coach Matt Spolski and L-E principal Worth Thomasson.

Signing day is sometimes reserved for a high school student-athlete who will talk about coming in and being a starter from the first day he walks onto his chosen college campus or, uses the day to talk look into the future and will say this is a stepping stone toward the goal of becoming a professional athlete.

Such grandiose dreams come with the territory and with the platform which is national signing day.

Then, there are those high school seniors who understand what the day is about; how affixing your name on a National Letter of Intent provides you with the chance to receive a free education at a school which youhave chosen because it best fits one’s academic, athletic and social needs.

Moments after having signed to play soccer at the College of Charleston, Lugoff-Elgin senior Andrew Place stepped in front of a pair of microphones and gave an honest answer to why he chose the school. It was not because it could propel him to a professional soccer career. Nor did he talk about coming in and becoming an immediate starter. His response was concise, addressed all issues at once while having a humorous, if not an honest, ending.

“It’s a Division I soccer program and that is always what I wanted to do,” said the 6-foot-1, 170-pounder on his choice of Charleston. “It has my major; I’ve always been interested in Marine Biology so, I will be able to study that. The campus is absolutely beautiful.  And it doesn’t hurt that the female to male ratio there is 2-to-1.”

The truthful response came from Place, who knows his way around the Holy City. 

A member of the South Carolina Battery Academy soccer program located in nearby Mount Pleasant, Place plays on the Battery’s 18-and under team. Playing for that squad has rendered Place ineligible to play his senior soccer season at Lugoff-Elgin. That, said Demons’ head coach Paul Witt, takes a big cog from the L-E attack. But Witt did not begrudge his former standout one bit for following his soccer dream of playing the sport in college. 

“It’s a great step for him,” Witt said of Place’s playing for the elite club squad.

“I’ve known Andrew for a good many years. He’s very dedicated to the sport. He’s put all his time and energy into preparing himself for this time where he can go and play at the next level. He’s been a leader at L-E, ever since he has started here whether that has been on jayvee or varsity.”

A three-year letterwinner in soccer who also played football at L-E, Place’s introduction to soccer came almost by chance when he just wanted to join in and play with the bigger kids. “I went to day care at Skateland when I was about five or six and a bunch of the older kids played soccer and I started playing with them,” he said of his introduction to the sport.

It did not take Place long to catch up and, later, surpass the players who were his senior. He started for the Demons as a freshman and last spring earned All-Region 4-4A honors while being named L-E’s offensive most valuable player. The last two years, he served as a team captain.

An honor roll student, Place supplemented his high school career by playing club soccer and being a center forward for the SC United 97 Elite team for the past five years. In both 2012 and 2013, he was selected as the coaches’ player of the year. In 2013, he also earned a spot on the Olympic Development Program’s State Team.

Given his success at the high school and club soccer levels, Place was not a hard person for veteran Cougars’ head coach Ralph Lundy and assistant coach Jamie Guyan to find and recruit.

“I first spoke to Coach Jamie (Guyan), who is the recruiting coordinator, and he’s really nice. He understands the game,” Place said of the recruiting process with Charleston. “On top of that, you have head coach Ralph Lundy who has been there forever. He knows a lot about the game and is really enthusiastic. I’m looking forward to playing for them.”

Lundy said the Cougars are excited to have Place join their four-player signing class.

“Andrew Place has so much potential,” Lundy said in a release on the team’s 2016 signees. “He is a big, strong, goal-scoring forward. He is focused on getting the goal, making goals and scoring goals. 

“I am really happy he comes from South Carolina United Soccer Club and he plays for Lugoff-Elgin High School. He has a lot of potential and is a big strong player, who is very eager to play college soccer.”

While eager to join the Colonial Athletic Association entry, Place said he knows he will have to earn playing time while finding a spot on the field which works best both for him and the team.

“They said if I can get somewhere where I can play comfortably and compete, they’re happy with wherever I am,” Place said of where and how he will be used by Lundy.

 “I probably won’t get that much playing time as a freshman. They really didn’t lose many players from last year’s team. I’m expecting to work a lot but I’ll be one of three forwards so, I’m hoping that I’ll get more playing time than most (freshmen.)”

Witt said Place’s long, solid frame should be a plus in his corner when it comes to dealing with the challenges which come with the college game.

“His size, definitely,” Witt said when asked of Place’s long suits. “He’s not pushed off the ball easily. He can read the game very well. He’s an astute student of the game and he watches professional football (soccer) so he knows what the game is supposed to look like.”

Come next summer, when soccer practice starts, Place said he will find himself back in a spot which he encountered in 2013, when he was a freshman at Lugoff-Elgin as being one of the youngest players on the varsity squad. At that time, he had to get used to the more physical play at that level. Not surprisingly, he said, that part of the game will be one which he has to adjust to once he dons a Cougar uniform.

“Definitely the physicality of the game,” he said of the biggest difference between the way things are played at the high school level as compared to the college game. “I’ll be playing against people who are three years older than me; they will be more technical, stronger and faster. Hopefully, I’ll get up there with them.

“For the most part, though, it’s a physical thing. Having played varsity soccer since the ninth grade, I’ve kind of dealt with it before. For the most part, it’s going to be my hitting the weights and working hard.”

Having faced the competition Place sees at the club level and the structured practices and playing against other elite players, Witt said, has helped prepare the former Demon for what he will encounter in college.

“I think with Andrew,” Witt said, “especially with training a couple days a week with the Charleston Battery, that’s going to prepare him better than spending his senior year in high school. It’s like in every other sport, the higher level you go it’s all about the speed of the game.”

Off the field, Place has an idea of what will be asked of him. Any issues with keeping his mind on academics before athletics, he said, were laid out for him while talking with Lundy and Guyan during the recruiting process.

“It’s going to get a lot more serious for me,” he said of his studies. “The College of Charleston has a very good program for their student-athletes, though. I’ll have mandatory six to 12 hours of study hall a week and there is someone who is, full-time, keeping track of all the student-athletes’ grades.”

Witt said he has no doubt that Andrew Place will enjoy a successful career at the College of Charleston as a student and as an athlete given his work ethic, discipline and commitment to both sports and academics. What the Demon soccer boss said will change for Place is that he is going from being a high school player whose skill set separated him from some players to going to where all the players are blessed with a similar amount of talent.

“He’s going to the College of Charleston and I’m sure that almost everybody there was a starter at the high school level, was a captain for their team and they played club soccer,” Witt said. “Andrew has been all that. I’m sure he’s going to fit in well there.”


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