ROTTERDAM — Ashley Cirilla was in the middle of everything for Schalmont’s Section II Class B championship girls’ soccer team last season.
On Friday afternoon, she was in the middle of the school gym. And her family.
Surrounded by 10 well-wishers, she signed a national letter of intent to attend Binghamton University next fall and play soccer for the Bearcats, an America East rival of UAlbany.
Coached by Neel Bhattacharjee, the Bearcats will have a distinct Schalmont theme on their roster, as Cirilla joins Davia Rossi, currently a freshman at Binghamton.
“Originally, when I was being recruited, the first coach who contacted me was Neel, and I loved everything about the campus, about the school, and I knew I wanted to be close to home so my family could watch all my games but still compete at the Division I level,” Cirilla said.
“Since I’ve been 6 years old, playing rec, training with my dad in our backyard, I knew I wanted to go play in college, and I had my mind set on Division I.”
Among those smiling for photos in the Schalmont gym were Cirilla’s mother, Kelly Paolino Cirilla, who played basketball at Schalmont and is a UAlbany Athletic Hall of Famer, and her father, Dennis, who played baseball at UAlbany.
The Sabres won four of five Section II championships from 2015-19, and Ashley Cirilla was a big part of the most recent title run.
She scored the third goal on a header in a 3-1 victory over Mechanicville last fall.
“She’s one of those utility players who knows multiple positions on the soccer field,” head coach Ryan Fries said. “She played midfield for us because of her ability to distribute the ball to other players. She owns the middle of the field. She’s quick with her feet, she’s got great vision and makes good decisions.”
“I’m coming in looking to play at the attacking center mid position,” Cirilla said. “I know there’s a lot of competition for that position, but I’m willing to work hard and earn my spot in the program. They’ve been very successful the last couple years, and hopefully, with my incoming class, we can win a championship.”
It’ll be a big jump to Division I, and Cirilla hopes she’ll enjoy the benefit of a spring season to help the transition, after the Colonial Council opted to move soccer to the Fall II season scheduled to begin on March 1.
“Both my parents played D-I sports at SUNY Albany, and I have multiple friends at the Binghamton program who told me to come in ready and prepared, be ready for preseason to work hard,” she said. “That’s exactly what I plan on doing, keeping up my strength, my fitness, training so I can come in at the top of my game ready to play.
“I can’t thank my staff and team enough for everything they’ve done for me, playing at a high level of sectionals, regionals. That has definitely helped me become the player I am today and prepared for this.”
“She’s one of those athletes that knew what she wanted to do with her life and where she wanted to go,” Fries said.
“The jump from high school to college is pretty drastic, especially D-I. She’s going to have her work cut out for her. She’ll be fine. But it’s one of those things where you have to adjust. It’s a new team, a new coach, a new philosophy, new values, and I think here we’ve done a good job instilling those values. So the transition for that should be fairly simple. She knows how to play. The [college-level] work ethic is an adjustment for most players, but she’ll get there.”