BEMIDJI -- When Lexi Paquette saw North Central University in Minneapolis had the education program she wanted, it was, quite literally, a sign.

“Definitely the academics,” Paquette said of what won her over. “That was obviously the main thing I was looking at. Since North Central had (American Sign Language) Interpreting, it helped lower down the choices.”

The Bemidji High School senior had several options to further her soccer career, including opportunities in Maine and Michigan, but she officially cemented North Central as the winning choice on Tuesday with her signature on her Division III celebratory signing form.

It wasn’t the first time she has signed an autograph, though.

In October, Paquette became the Lumberjacks’ first-ever goal scorer in the state tournament. BHS, fresh off its third straight Section 8A title thanks to Paquette’s game-winning goal in the championship, made history with a strike that was much more than a consolation goal. She spent part of her postgame fulfilling autograph requests.

“I’m glad I left that much of a pop,” said Paquette. “It’s bittersweet. I’m excited to move forward with soccer, but I’m also sad to leave a team that I’ve played with forever.”

Paquette scored 11 goals in 2019, none more important than her final two as a Lumberjack, as Bemidji went 13-6-1. The forward finished her prep career with 19 goals and seven assists and will now move on to the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference -- where a number of other BHS graduates will be waiting to take her on.

“I think it’s going to be very fun,” Paquette said of facing former teammates. “Very interesting because we kind of know how we play, but at the same time, we can have fun (while) playing hard against each other. I’m excited.”

Paquette intends to major in ASL interpreting, a passion she found thanks to her positive experiences in high school.

And while her Rams haven’t had a winning season since 2011 -- going just 1-15 last fall -- Paquette wants to go in and contribute in a similar way the did at the high school level.

“I definitely want to be an encouraging factor to the team,” she said. “I feel like I was very encouraging this past year with high school soccer. I talk a lot on the field. I don’t know if anyone notices that, but I talk a lot. So I (want to bring) encouragement and a lot of energy.”