CHICO — National Signing Day for high school athletes was Thursday, but with the official date being on Veterans Day three athletes from Chico High announced their commitment to play their respective sports at the Division I level.
Defender Taylor Dever and forward Priscilla Ward have been staples on the Chico High soccer team since their freshman year. The two led the Panthers to an Eastern Athletic League title in their freshman and sophomore seasons, before the pandemic forced a shortened 2020 season when no EAL title was on the line.
On Wednesday Dever announced her commitment to play at UC Davis, and Ward announced she will be playing at St. Mary’s College of California. Both will be playing Division I soccer and will be the first female soccer players from the Chico area to be playing at the Division I level.
“I’m most excited for the D-I athlete grind,” Dever said. “I’m excited to get up early and practice, do fitness testing and grind it out. All the hours and all the work I’ve put in I’m just excited to put it to use at the next level.”
As freshmen in 2018, Ward was tied for fifth best on the Panthers with eight goals and added three assists and was tied for third on the team with 32 shots. As a sophomore, Ward upped that number to 11 goals and had eight assists. In Ward’s shortened junior year she had seven goals in one assist in just nine games after playing 24 games her freshman year and 27 her sophomore year.
For the halfback Dever, her freshman year began with three goals on just seven shots and she added four assists. Dever’s sophomore year she chose to play basketball and continued to play club soccer, and her junior year she returned to the pitch with three goals and two assists in the nine-game season.
Dever’s and Ward’s recruiting process were quite different. For Dever, the Aggies’ coaches had seen her play her freshman and sophomore year while Ward and Dever played for the club team Davis Legacy. When the recruiting window opened Dever’s junior season and she got the call from the Davis coaches she immediately connected. Dever said the coaches talked about building up their program and breaking records, and for her that meant a lot because she loves setting goals and the feeling of reaching them.
“They were super competitive and I kind of matched that spirit. They were super energetic and they value competitive winning style competition,” Dever said. “It just felt like home when I talked with them so it helped my decision.”
For Ward the decision to sign with St. Mary’s was a process that happened in a span of five days. Gaels’ coach Theresa Romagnolo saw Ward at a Davis Legacy camp, emailed her immediately after the game and invited her out to a St. Mary’s camp three days later. Ward attended the camp and Romagnolo offered her a scholarship and a spot on the team at the camp.
“It just clicked and felt meant to be and I loved the program so I accepted it,” Ward said.
Ward, said she loved the campus vibe and architecture at the school, but the most important thing for her was playing for a coach she connected with and could develop as a player. She said she knew since the age of four that she was happiest on a soccer field, and wanted to play in college. Ward said her father taught her her first move as a forward at age four, one she still uses today, and her older brother played goalkeeper for Chico High and has helped her develop one-on-one moves to increase her goal total.
For Dever, it was around age 12 when she realized she had to focus everything on her craft to be the best she could. Ever since high school, Dever said the goal was always to play Division I. She put her mind to it and knew she was going to accomplish the goal.
The two Chico players travel an average of 10 hours per week together to attend practices and games, which has formed a special bond between the seniors. During the pandemic the two would go to the Chico High soccer field and train daily together. The relationship the two have formed off the field has translated to a special connection and trust on the field. Dever said the two are always pushing each other and never let each other back off which makes for a special partnership. Ward mentioned that when you get to a certain level of soccer everyone’s athletic and she believes it is the mindset that sets she and Dever apart.
“We’re both so committed to the sport and it’s just been so amazing having someone by my side on the journey that understands it,” Ward said.
Chico High baseball’s Ryan Edwards signs with D-I Long Beach State
When Long Beach State contacted Ryan Edwards near the end of his sophomore year, the Sharks immediately had the pitcher’s attention. Edwards loves the beach, loves the warm weather and had dreamed of going to a school in Southern California and Long Beach State had always been one of his top schools.
Edwards made a verbal commitment to Division I Long Beach State near the start of the pandemic in early 2020, and stuck to his word as he committed to pitching for the Sharks at a signing ceremony outside the gates of Panther Stadium on Wednesday at Chico High.
“On top of the area, with the coaching staff I just really like how they run the program. Its run like a professional program and I liked how the coaches advertised that,” Edwards said via phone Thursday. “I’m just glad I’m able to play baseball after high school, whether that be Division I or anything else. Obviously it’s like icing on the cake for it to be a Division I, but I’m just thankful I’m able to play after high school.”
Edwards said his true love for baseball began around eighth grade, a time he decided to get serious about baseball and knew he wanted to potentially continue playing after high school. At the time he and his teammates on the Chico Aces were doing well, having fun and getting along.
“After that the love for baseball just increased and I kept wanting more,” Edwards said.
Edwards is on a partial scholarship, where Long Beach State will pay for tuition, books, and a portion of food and living. The coaches at Long Beach liked Edwards’ arm action, his off speed pitches and his ability to throw strikes. With still a senior season to play in 2022 under new Chico High coach Fred Ludwig, the Sharks are asking the former Aces pitcher to continue to increase his velocity on his pitches. Edwards said he still has goals of his own as well for his senior season with the Panthers as well.
“I would love to win a section championship, that would be the end goal — the icing on the cake for high school,” Edwards said.