Ashley Rich, a former field hockey star for Westhill High School, had quite the rewarding and memorable fall as a student-athlete for the University of Connecticut women’s field hockey team.
Rich will now always be able to say she was a national champion as she was a sophomore backup midfielder on the top-ranked and undefeated UConn team which won the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Tournament championship with a 2-1 victory over Maryland on Nov. 19 in Louisville, Ky.
The Final Four festivities got off to a positive start for UConn at the tournament banquet on the night before the semifinals at Churchill Downs when Rich received the Elite 90 award.
Founded by the NCAA, the award honors the individual who has reached the pinnacle of competition at the national championship level in his or her sport while also achieving the highest academic standard among his or her peers.
The Elite 90 is presented to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average participating at the finals site for each of the NCAA’s championships.
Rich is a nursing major who had a 3.985 GPA when she was presented her award to become the program’s first player to be so honored. She was the second Husky overall to receive the Elite 90 as former women’s basketball star Maya Moore was a recipient in 2011.
Rich and the UConn field hockey players were joined at the tournament by student-athletes from Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina, which was eliminated by UConn in the semifinals.
She had three assists for a UConn team which won its third national title in the last five years and started in five of the 20 games she played.
It was UConn’s fifth national title – the previous four occurring in 1981, 1985, 2013 and 2014. This year’s 23-0 Huskies were the first team in program history to finish unbeaten and just the sixth field hockey team in NCAA history to to so.
While the Huskies were winning their previous two back-to-back championships in 2013 and ’14, Rich was a standout for Westhill.
During her sophomore year in the 2012 season, Rich was selected the team MVP and to the FCIAC All-West Team.
Rich was selected to the 2013 All-FCIAC Field Hockey First Team and All-State Second Team as a junior, and as a senior she made the FCIAC All-West Team and received Westhill’s Scholar-Athlete Award.
Rich played in seven games during her first season for the Huskies in the fall of 2016 and was recipient of the Zag Field Hockey/NFHCA Scholar of Distinction for having a cumulative GPA of 3.9 or higher.
The driven Rich plans on continuing her success in the classroom and playing a prominent role toward helping the Huskies defend their national championship next fall.