February 7, 2014 at 10:21 PM
NEW PROVIDENCE, N.J. – Ashley Evangelos made a big decision after her freshman year at New Providence High School. After seeing varsity girls’ soccer competition sparingly during her rookie campaign, Evangelos came to the conclusion that she would one day play NCAA Division 1 soccer.
Her goal became a reality on Friday in the NPHS Media Center. Surrounded by her family and friends, Evangelos signed her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at the University of Rhode Island.
“Its like a sense of relief,” Evangelos said. “I know where I’m going, I’m excited to be going there. I’m studying nursing and playing soccer. Its what I always wanted to do.”
New Providence High Schools girls’ soccer coach Scott Murphy saw something special in Evangelos during her freshman season.
Although she started her first year coming off the bench, Evangelos fought her way into the starting lineup towards the end of the season, eventually playing a big factor in the Pioneers’ state championship run.
It was this type of work that set her apart from the rest of the team.
“She was just very athletic and strong for her age,” Murphy said. In girls soccer, that’s one of the things you look for, along with skill, is can they compete against 18 year olds.”
After Evangelos won her first championship, Murphy said she has improved 100 percent each year in different aspects of the game.
“As a freshman, it was more strength, agility, athleticism,” he said. “It slowly became her skills each year. Junior year and senior year, it became the on-field leader and to just understanding the game. Each year she came back, I would tell my assistants ‘Wait until you see Ash because she’s so much better than she was last year.’”
Evangelos was heavily recruited by local schools such as Monmouth and Seton Hall, however once she visited Rhode Island she fell in love with the team, school and educational program.
She is one of three New Jersey-products to sign with Rhode Island. Head coach Michael Needham called the 2014 recruiting class “special,” adding the team will be “the most competitive” he has seen since becoming the head coach in 2011.
“This group will accentuate the strong returning core that we have,” Needham said in a URI press release. “As we evaluate going forward, one area that we were lacking last year was the depth to compete when we got to conference play. This is not the case anymore. The addition of these players and the return of several players from injury will make for a very dangerous team over the next several years.”
Needham expects Evangelos to contribute in a big way when she gets to campus in early August.
“Ashley will be a versatile defender for us,” he said. “She has the technical ability to set play from the back and the athleticism to play either centrally or on one of the flanks."