Amherst junior Ashlee Dahman spent the spring and summer catching fly balls in center field for the Comets and for her travel team, New Jersey Intensity.
On Thursday, Dahman reached out and grabbed a piece of her future when she orally committed to play softball at the University of Connecticut.
“I’ve worked so hard,” Dahman said. “I’m so glad that I finally get to catch my dream and it’s really coming true. I’m so excited right now I don’t know what to do.”
Dahman said it has been her dream since she started playing travel ball at age 11 to one day be a Division I college athlete.
On Monday, she and her mother visited the Connecticut campus in Storrs, about 25 miles east of Hartford. It didn’t take her long to make a decision.
“The minute I stepped on the campus I fell in love and I knew that was where I belonged,” said Dahman, who was also being heavily recruited by schools in the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten. “I live out in the country a little bit and when I got there the campus was surrounded by cornfields and it reminded me of home.”
Dahman was the leading hitter for a Comets team that went 20-6 and advanced to the district semifinals last year. She batted .476 with three home runs, 31 RBIS and 17 extra-base hits.
She was also one of the area’s best defensive center fielders.
“The Division I kids just stand out and I knew right away Ashlee was that kind of player,” Amherst coach Lacey Reichert said. “I’m not just talking about her ability, it’s also her work ethic, her leadership, the way she handles herself on and off the field, plus she’s also a great student.”
Dahman had a busy summer playing in tournaments in Florida, Colorado and California with the Intensity.
“The opportunity to travel the country and play the game I love is something I know most people don’t get the chance to do so I never take that for granted,” Dahman said. “I get to have that chance and I am exceptionally grateful for the opportunity.”
It was at the Premier Girls Fastpitch nationals in Huntington Beach, Calif., where the Huskies coaches first saw her play. Dahman didn’t have the chance to meet incoming UConn coach Jen McIntyre until she visited campus.
“Coach took me around on a tour of the campus and of the sports facilities,” Dahman said. “Most of the players weren’t around because its summer, but me and my mom had a lot of time to talk to her and we left with a good feeling.”
Dahman plans to major in sports medicine with an emphasis of physical therapy, a task that will be made easier by the fact she is on track to enter Connecticut with an associate’s degree from Lorain County Community College after taking courses at the college throughout her high school career as part of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program.
“There are a lot of talented players across the country but Division I coaches are also looking for the intangibles and that’s where I think Ashlee had a leg up on her competition,” Reichert said. “She’s extremely coachable, she’s a great teammate. College coaches are also looking for good students.”
With the recruiting process behind her, Dahman can concentrate on her studies and trying to lead the Comets to their first regional tournament berth since 1999.
“My high school teammates have been texting me, ‘Congrats,’ but they don’t realize that I couldn’t have done this without them,” she said. “They’ve been a great support system for me. I’m excited to get back to school. We’re going to have a real good season this year and coach Reichert is a great coach. Now that my decision is behind me it will almost be like a weight is lifted off my back and I can have fun with my team and try to win a championship.”
Reichert pointed out that Dahman’s contribution to Amherst softball doesn’t end at the dugout steps. She also helps out her teammates and is a role model and mentor to younger players across the city.
“You can’t put a price tag on what it means to have a player sign with a top Division I program,” Reichert said. “It brings positive attention to our community from all across Ohio and every girls playing softball in Amherst now, because of Ashlee, sees what is possible, too, if they are willing to put
in the hard work and dedication she has to be the best.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.