Berkeley universities

Jefferson and Chatham lacrosse players ink NLI

Avery Young has always had a special athletic relationship with his father, Chris. Chris Young played baseball at Fair Lawn and Kean University. He has been Avery’s chief driver at lacrosse tournaments, and she often writes quotes of him on the tape she uses to wrap her sticks.

More recently, Chris Young served as his daughter’s guide through the college recruitment process.

Before Young, a verbally committed Jefferson midfielder at the University of Oregon, she had to think about what it would be like to play without her parents, Chris and Jennifer Young, in the stands.

Avery Young will sign his national letter of intent with the Ducks on Wednesday, one of dozens of student-athletes from Morris and Sussex counties transferring their words in ink as the first period opens.

The NLI is basically a one-year contract in which a student promises to attend college and remain academically eligible in exchange for athletic-based financial aid.

Football players can sign their NLI on December 21, 22 and 23.

“It was horrible. It was very stressful,” said Young, a senior midfielder who scored a team-high 70 goals as Jefferson went undefeated in the NJGILL Colonial North last spring.

“First of all, there are so many ups and downs. You think of one thing and then, ‘Wait, I don’t know.’ There was a lot of travel. The summer before junior year, we spent all the time in camps and scouting days, and in the fall there were also a lot of scouting days. There was a lot of lacrosse, and no marked path.”

Chatham’s Jane Middleton at UC Berkeley

Chatham senior midfielder Jane Middleton had an equally arduous process – “presentation after presentation after club tournament and specific school camps” – before choosing the University of California, Berkeley. Middleton hadn’t thought of going to the West Coast until Cal head coach Brooke Eubanks contacted Building Blocks Lacrosse coach Samantha Warner.

Due to NCAA rules, Middleton wasn’t even allowed to contact Cal’s coaches directly until Sept. 1 of her junior year. By then she had already gone to a camp in Berkeley.

She loved the campus, the academics, and even the mild weather all year round. Middleton committed to Cal on October 29, 2021.

But then Eubanks and one of his assistants left.

“We were concerned that our commitments would not be honored,” Middleton said. “With the personnel changes, they could disengage the whole class if they had other recruits that we wanted to bring with them. Nobody was thinking, ‘Do we want to leave?’ It’s “Do they still want us?”

New head coach Jennifer Wong accepted all rookies. Middleton will also sign his NLI on Wednesday.

“Hopefully there will be some weight on my shoulders,” said Middleton, who had 10 goals, 11 assists and 11 draw checks as Chatham won the Morris County Tournament and Group 3 titles last spring.

Develop Pac-12 lacrosse programs

There are no New Jersey players on Oregon’s current roster, but Cal has five – and recently added assistant coach Bridget Ballardwho led Chatham in points in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Coincidentally, Ballard’s mother was Middleton’s kindergarten teacher.

Middleton played with Bears freshman midfielder Avery Hoeft (Westfield) at BBL, and also knows freshman midfielder Amanda Pio (Mendham).

Young and Middleton will face another Morris County native, USC head coach Lindsey Munday (Mountain Lakes), in the Pac-12 game. Oregon and Cal finished tied at the bottom of the Pac-12 last spring and had six combined wins overall.

But that’s part of what drew Young to the program, the opportunity to help the Ducks grow like Jefferson did.

“I wanted to be part of a program that didn’t go where I know it could, to grow with it,” said Young, whose father has already promised to watch every game in the club. Oregon on the Pac-12 network.

“As an athlete, I’m better off being able to grow as a player with my teammates, rather than just being expected to do something. Jefferson did that for me as well, and I certainly wouldn’t be the player I I am without it.”