St. Augustine Prep senior soccer player Jay Higbee says the prospect of getting playing time as a freshman led him to verbally commit to Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
The 18-year old Mays Landing resident and first-team Press All-Star goalkeeper said he considered La Salle, Duquesne and Rider before making his decision last month.
Higbee said he received a partial athletic and academic scholarship to play at St. Joseph's, an NCAA Division I program that competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He plans to attend its business school.
The Hawks have three goalies on their roster, but Higbee said coach Don D'Ambra, a former St. Joseph's player who has run the team the past three seasons, liked what he saw in the Hermits senior.
Starting Hawks goalie Andrew D'Ottavi, from Ocean City, is staying for a fifth year, Higbee said in a phone interview Thursday. "But Coach D'Ambra said I could battle him for the starting spot. They like my size, and they said I was good in the air, which is my strength. The coach was pretty impressed."
Higbee, who is 6 foot, 3 inches, recorded seven shutouts in his final season with the Hermits. He will become the first player under Prep coach Steve Rolando to go on to play at Division I soccer. Rolando, who was with St. Augustine as an assistant for 18 years, took over as head coach last fall.
"He's got the total package. He has size, confidence, he's strong in the air, he has great hands and he's a good decision maker," Rolando said.
"I would have to say at my tenure at St. Augustine, he's probably one of my top three performers at that position, and we've had some very great goalies."
Higbee will join a program that went 5-11-2 (1-5-2) in 2012. However, Higbee noted that the Hawks, a young team that improved during season, played its competition tough. Higbee hopes he can solidify the defense.
"He's very technical and physical, and I label him as a true leader," Rolando said. "With his work ethic, I think he'll be very successful at that level."
"And I think he's only going to bring success to a program. Not only because of his ability, but because of how he composes himself and his leadership qualities."
Soccer wasn't the only thing that drew Higbee to the university. He said that several of his friends from St. Augustine are continuing their educations at Saint Joseph's. He also said he thought the campus was beautiful and that his education would benefit.
He's also hoping that former St. Augustine Prep teammate Ryan McFadden, a junior for the Hawks, can help him get acquainted.
"I definitely wanted to get (the college decision) out of the way," Higbee said. "I went to a lot of tournaments and showcases, so I've been stringing the process out for about a year-and-a-half now. I feel relieved that I got it over with and happy I committed."
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