After the Development Academy playoffs – held this past June in Oceanside, Calif. – wrapped up, Evan Southern caught wind that Saint Louis University was interested in him.
That prompted an overnight visit to SLU in late July, and upon returning to his hometown of Glastonbury, Conn., Southern received an offer from the Atlantic 10 program. The 17-year-old forward and captain wasted little time, verbally committing to the Billikens after scoring 12 goals for Oakwood’s U-17 team during the 2017-18 season.
“Right when I stepped foot on campus, it amazed me,” Southern said when reached by phone Saturday night. “After hearing everything the coaches had to say about the program and what the kids on the team said about the college, I didn’t want to have any regrets. I just knew I wanted to go there. I didn’t care how quick it was or how long it took, I just knew that was the program.”
On the recruiting trail, Southern also had interest from Stony Brook, Rhode Island, Central Connecticut State, La Salle University and Hartford. But a pitch laid out by first-year head coach Kevin Kalish quickly wrapped up the process for the rising senior.
Kalish, a Saint Louis alum, described how he aims to make the Billikens a consistent NCAA Tournament team, one that wins the A-10 and competes against NCAA powerhouses in non-conference play.
“They really connected with me, and then soccer piece, their history is insane,” Southern said. “I fell in love with the program straight away.”
As Southern alluded to, Saint Louis has won 10 NCAA Tournaments, with their last title coming in 1973. They haven’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2014, and Southern said he’s anxious to help the program return to its usual standard.
Before then, Southern will continue developing under head coach Kevin Bacher at Oakwood. He’s their U-19 team’s second striker to commit early, with Chris Alwang (Weston, Conn.) pledging to UConn. Defender Billy Jones (Ellington, Conn.) has also decided early, and will head to New Hampshire.
Other sought-after recruits on that Oakwood team include left back Sloan Sullivan (Ellington, Conn.), attacking midfielder Dylan Maxon (Clifton Park, N.Y.) and center back Marcus Williams (North Branford, Conn.), among others.
That all leaves Southern eager to get the 2018-19 DA season underway, especially with the recruiting pressures off his shoulders.
“For the club, we want to be the first Oakwood team to make it to playoffs and make it out of the group stage,” Southern said. “We think our team is good enough, and we just have to prepare for it. It should be a good season.”