WOMEN'S FOOTBALL: Rawlins earns Nashville scholarship
BROAD Town youngster Niamh Rawlins is jetting off in search of the American dream after earning a prestigious soccer scholarship at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee.
The 18-year-old left winger, who has featured for Portsmouth Ladies this season, is due to fly across the pond at the end of July to spend four years playing and training full-time with the Lipscomb Bisons, while studying for a degree in exercise science.
Rawlins, who was part of the Swindon Town Football in the Community Under 17 squad that finished third at the 2011 Gothia Cup, put her skills on display during a showcase match in Lilleshall last December, with videos sent out to US colleges by scholarship company PASS4Soccer.
Now the youngster is looking forward to starting a new life stateside as the first-ever English girl to earn a scholarship at Lipscomb.
“I’m really excited - it’s not just going to be a great opportunity in football but a great life experience as well,” said Rawlins, who is taking her A-level exams at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy’s sixth form.
“We went over there in February and the first thing that we saw was a huge basketball court. Everything there was just like you’d see on an American television show.
“The coaches over there were lovely and being the first English girl to go there will be a good thing because it gives you something to talk about with everyone else.
“I’ve played senior football for the last two seasons, so I feel ready to play over there. I just want to pass my driving test before I go, so that it makes it easier for me to get around.”
Rawlins has also played for Wootton Bassett Town girls, Bristol Academy and, Swindon Spitfires, as well as representing Wiltshire.
Mum Tina said: “After her trial last December, she had so many offers from different colleges. When we got home from Lilleshall, she had one come through the next day.
“There were probably about 25 different ones that came through but she wanted to go somewhere that played in the top division (Lipscomb Bisons play in Division One of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, in the Atlantic Sun Conference).
“I was obviously a bit nervous about sending my little girl across the world without going over there first but, when we did, it seemed like it’s going to be great experience for her.”