Growing up in the neighborhood around Woodside High School, Elise Evans spent a lot of time on the field inside Woodside Stadium, working on her football skills.
But when it came to playing soccer for the Wildcats, it was something she simply couldn’t do, for the sole reason that her club commitments didn’t allow her to play for the team. from his secondary school.
For two years, it was a blow, as Evans was one of the highest-ranked college recruits in the nation.
“I knew (there was this elite player on campus),” Woodside head coach Jose Navarrete said. “But I made no effort to recruit her. We play with [who] presents himself (for the tests).
Evans herself was also disappointed. She was friends with many players on the team, so she tried to support them in any way she could.
“I grew up around Woodside so I would go practice on the Woodside pitch and I was always good friends (with the players on the team) so I would go to games,” said Evans. “For me, when I got to high school, I was told that I wouldn’t have the opportunity to play soccer in high school. It was super disappointing for me.
But then COVID hit and shut down the world. He also shut down the academy system that was in place. A cut above even club football, playing for a development academy meant year-round commitment. But in the spring of 2020, the academy system was abandoned. Additionally, the Central Coast section decided to play a spring season in 2021. These two developments allowed Evans to finally step onto the court for the Wildcats.
And what a magnificent development because the rest of the peninsula’s football world got to see what the country’s No. 1 college rookie looked like on the pitch. And Evans definitely lived up to the hype. She had a strong junior season and followed it up with a sublime senior campaign which led to Evans being named Daily Journal Girls’ Football Player of the Year.
“I was very grateful to have the opportunity to play (for Woodside) for the past two seasons,” said Evans, who verbally committed to Stanford as a high school freshman and made it official with his letter. of national intent signed last fall.
“With the new rule change (surrounding the academy team) and COVID, I was super excited (to get the chance to play for Woodside) and jumped in,” Evans said.
Evans has played everywhere on the football pitch – from striker, midfielder and defender – but has settled into a defending role for his club, college and national team.
But there’s something about defenders becoming dominant forwards and Evans is just the latest to transition seamlessly. Although she missed the non-league leg of Woodside’s schedule due to club commitments, when she joined the side for the start of the Peninsula Athletic League game she was certainly worth the wait. , as she scored 17 goals and added two assists in 10 league games, leading the Wildcats to an 8-1-1 league record to win the PAL Bay Division title. Woodside finished the season 15-2-1 overall.
“That’s a lot of points. … If she scored once, she was capable of scoring twice, three times,” Navarrete said. Evans has scored multiple goals in five games, including four in a 6-3 win over Sequoia.
“You can tell she hasn’t played a lot of forwards and she’s raw, but wow, what a talent at your disposal. If given a chance to play forward, I think she could really flourish.
Navarrete was ready to try it at a striker, almost on a lark, last season. When the 2021 spring season started, the games were meant to get kids back into the field. Like everyone said back then, games weren’t supposed to count.
Because of this, Navarrete decided to move Evans from defense to attack.
“When she arrived, we threw her in the back. Nothing was supposed to matter, so we thought, ‘Go ahead’. We said we needed someone up there to score goals,” Navarrete said. “We saw in training that she was just above everyone, in terms of protecting the ball, kicking the ball, speed, technical ability.”
Evans was no stranger to the goalscoring role. She started her football career as a striker, moving into midfield and eventually settling as a defender.
But she retained the mindset of a senior as she became an elite defender.
“I wouldn’t say I scored a ton of goals when I was younger,” Evans said. “I am a striker in the body of a defender. I have an attacking mindset when I’m back there.
In the end, Evans played a bit of everything. His knowledge of the game allows him to read the situation and adapt accordingly. The Wildcats need a goal? Evans had one foot in it. Need more pressure or strengthen the midfield? Evans became the team’s best distributor. Need to defend a 1-0 lead? Evans was in the middle of the defense, closing the opposition attack.
“I just wanted to be on the court,” Evans said. “I spoke with the coach. ‘Wherever you want me to play, I’m happy to do it.’ This season… with the injuries, there has been a lot of rotation.
But it was his all-around game that Navarrete says made Evans dangerous and, according to Woodside’s longtime coach, Evans’ mere presence got into the opponent’s head when the Wildcats got off the bus .
“A lot of people knew who she was and they were terrified to play against her. A lot of games, we won during warm-ups,” Navarrete said. “Up front, she’s really unmanageable. Physically, people weren’t going to match her.
Although Evans may have finished her career in high school, she still has plenty of opportunities ahead of her. She was part of a Stanford recruiting class that was among the best in the country and the Cardinal is a national powerhouse. Evans is also part of the national team pool and has even started limited training with OL Reign, the Seattle-based professional team in the National Women’s Soccer League.
But Evans is more than a footballer. Class president in freshman, sophomore, and junior year, she became student body president at Woodside her senior year. She is also a player ambassador to the commissioner of the academy for which she plays. Evans has a lot of irons in the fire and could easily step into a leadership role as he gets older.
But first, she hopes for a long career on the pitch.
“Competing in the World Cup and the Olympics is definitely something I want to do. I try to put myself in the right environments to make that happen,” Evans said. “I hope to play football and be involved in sport for as long as possible.”