Teammates since they were 10, Ripon High seniors Kaylyn Evans and Jillian Jamero are set to go their separate ways.
On Wednesday, they made good on their commitments to NCAA Division I women’s soccer programs. Evans is taking her goalkeeping prowess to Sacramento State, and the quick-footed Jamero is heading to Air Force.
“It is the most exciting thing to me,” Evans said of getting to sign her National Letter of Intent alongside Jamero. “When we started the journey together we never thought we’d end up here.”
Jamero has been playing soccer nonstop since first taking the pitch at age 4. Evans, formerly a softball player, didn’t start her soccer career until she was 10. It was then that Jamero and Evans first competed together for the Modesto Ajax. They’re now with the Mustang Xplosion out of Danville, a highly-competitive club team that has also featured Pacific-bound forward Ashley Arnett of Oakdale.
“Getting to play for Mustang Xplosion has been the best experience possible,” Evans said. “They have top-tier Division I athletes, so getting the opportunity to play and practice with them has been great.”
They’re currently starters for Ripon High’s Trans-Valley League-leading girls basketball team, but neither has played for the soccer squad. The Indians reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V final last year without two of the better players on campus. Their commitment to the Mustang Xplosion during the spring season would make it tough for players like Evans and Jamero to compete simultaneously with their schoolmates.
Go figure that next year the SJS will join the rest of the California Interscholastic Federation’s sections in holding its boys and girls soccer seasons in the winter.
“I wish they did it this year so that I could have a chance to play for the high school,” Jamero said. “I haven’t even had the chance to watch them play.”
The sacrifice has paid off.
In Jamero, Air Force gets an electric winger with international experience. She has four caps for the Philippine women’s soccer team and got to compete in the 2013 ASEAN Football Federation Women’s Championships in Myanmar, so adapting to her surroundings in Colorado Springs, Colo. shouldn’t be a problem.
“That was probably the best experience in my life — I loved it,” Jamero said. “That was in my sophomore year, so I was the youngest player on the team.”
Air Force went 2-8-1 in the Mountain West Conference (8-11-1 overall) this past fall and hasn’t had a winning season since 1999, but Jamero said she enjoys the challenge that comes with “being the underdog” for a program that is “definitely building.”
“(Air Force had coach Larry Friend) likes my style of play,” Jamero said. “I’m a playmaker who likes to attack.”
Athletics wasn’t the only factor in choosing Air Force over other Division I programs such as Penn State and San Diego State, which were among the other schools to send offers. Colorado, Santa Clara, Texas and USC were others to show interest.
“What motivated me to go with Air Force was that I wanted to serve my country, which I didn’t know was going to be an option for me,” said Jamero, whose dad served in the Navy. “This gave me the perfect opportunity to do both: play soccer and serve. The academy has the brightest future for me because of the opportunities they have there. I just fell in love with the campus, the atmosphere and the structure there.”
Jamero is leaning toward studying sports medicine.
Evans isn’t venturing too far from home, and there are familiar faces waiting for her at Sac State. The Hornets are coming off a 5-5 season in the Big Sky Conference (8-12 overall).Cal Poly was also recruiting the touted keeper.
“It’s such a great environment there and it feels like home,” said Evans, who is looking into pursuing a career in speech pathology. “I love the team, and the coaching staff was the best fit for me. It’s a small world, because my sister (Samantha) played with two of the girls who are there right now, and one of my friends who is like a sister to me has an older sister who goes there.”
A team captain for the Mustang Xplosion, Evans earned a four-star rating (out of five) from Top Drawer Soccer and has played on U.S. Club Soccer Cal North Olympic Development Program teams. She and Jamero had been committed to their future schools for a year.
“(Signing Day) has been something we’ve always been expecting in the last year, but it’s exciting to actually see it on paper,” Jamero said.