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All-city and all-state in softball as a junior, Ashlee England seemed to have lost all chance for an NCAA Division I scholarship with a knee injury during her senior basketball season.

But then came Northwestern State of Natchitoches, La., coached by former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Chattanooga State assistant Donald Pickett.

England can't play yet after her Feb. 6 surgery, but Tuesday morning her mother express-mailed her signed scholarship papers to Pickett.

"I had an offer from Chattanooga State, but this is a Division I university," England said during a signing party at the high school. "He had seen me play in the past, and he still needed an outfielder, so he called me. I went down there two or three weeks ago. It was 103 degrees when I visited, but it's really pretty. It's a college town."

Also a Lady Trojans volleyball and basketball standout, England scored the game-ending winning run in the Class AAA softball state final in 2007 and led the team in 2008 with her .386 batting average, .462 on-base percentage, .588 slugging percentage, four home runs and 13 stolen bases.

"She hits the long ball and hits it hard, and she also can get a bunt down and beat it out," said Soddy-Daisy assistant coach Lamar Lasley, who also coached England in summer ball one year. "You can't play her one way.

"Her speed makes a big difference in the outfield, too."

"You can't coach speed, and that's her main asset," head coach Clifford Kirk said. "She does a great job going after fly balls. She gets a tremendous jump on the ball."

England said she still holds the county third-grade record, for boys and girls, for the 400-meter run from the Senter Relays. Sitting out all of softball season as the Lady Trojans went 39-4-1 but fell short of the state tournament was "very hard," she said, "but I was there at every practice and every game, cheering them on."

Soddy-Daisy lost 2-1 in a sectional to Riverdale, which then won the state title.

Kirk started two freshmen and a junior in the outfield and felt England's ability and three years of experience very likely would've been the difference, "but I appreciate her being there even though she couldn't play.

"We never talked about anything she got from being on the sideline with us," he added, "but she observed nearly everything we did, and she's a smart kid. I'm sure she learned quite a bit."

One thing she learned for sure.

"It made me know that I really want to do this," England said. "I found even more love for the game."

Her rehab is on schedule, she said, and she's taking a strength test on the repaired left knee on July 28.

"I'm going to pass it," she said with a wide smile.

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