By Mike Rubin / Daily News Chronicle
After a successful four-year All-American field hockey career at Babson College, Reading's Ashley Tango was chosen to be one of nearly 100 prospective field hockey players to try out for the United States national team.
The tryouts are scheduled to take place from Jan. 20-23 in Lancaster, Pennsylåvania, where she'll fight for several vacant spots along with fellow collegiate athletes ranging from the Division 1 to the Division 3 levels nationwide under the watchful eye of head coach Janneke Schopman.
"It's definitely an exciting time, and I really have nothing to lose,'' said Tango. "It's definitely an opportunity of a lifetime for me. I had a really awesome experience playing my field hockey at Babson College and I'm hoping to continue to play my field hockey at the national level."
After a three-sport high school (field hockey, ice hockey, softball) career at Reading High (Class of 2015), Tango chose Babson for the opportunity to play two sports in college — field hockey and softball.
Tango explored the possibility of competing at the Division 1 level and was recruited by some area colleges. Ultimately, she pursued her athletic career at Babson College, where she had the option of competing in two sports at the Division 3 level.
"I remember visiting Providence College with the chance of playing softball, and then I visited Babson College,'' said Tango. "The softball coach (David Canan) said I could play two sports at (Division 3). I visited the campus and totally fell in love with it and all the coaches I met there. I'm so grateful that I made the decision to go to Babson College and to have the opportunity to play two sports at the collegiate level."
Tango, as well as Babson, are certainly glad she did. A Middlesex League All-Star athlete at RMHS, Tango kicked it up another level in college — especially when it came to field hockey.
Tango was selected as the Longstreth/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) New England East Player of the Year earlier this month.
One of just four players in program history to earn regional player of the year recognition, Tango is now the only one to be honored twice following up on her 2016 award. She produced 15 goals and 14 assists for 44 points in 19 games this past fall. Tango finished the season ranked 11th in Division 3 in assists and 29th nationally in points, and is one just three players in school history to surpass the 40-point mark in three consecutive seasons.
Tango scored at least one goal in 11 games and produced at least one point in 15 of 19 contests in 2018. She produced four multi-assist games and tallied at least one point in 10 straight outings between September 15-October 13.
A four-time All-New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) and NFHCA All-New England East selection, Tango leaves Babson as arguably the most decorated player in school history. She ranks first on the Beavers' all-time list with 52 assists, is fourth in goals and third in program annals with 164 points. Additionally, the two-time conference Player of the Year is also one of just 17 players in Division 3 history to record more than 50 career goals and 50 assists.
Tango, who is also a two-time All-America first-team selection, helped the program capture its fourth consecutive NEWMAC regular season title this fall. She is also part of a senior class that won a program-best 70 games over the last four years.
As for her immediate success at the collegiate level, Tango credits the underclassmen and the coaching staff for her adjustments.
"(Julie Ryan) is such a great coach and I probably wouldn't be where I am in field hockey if it weren't for her as well as the upperclassmen that were on my team during my freshmen season,'' said Tango. "They really helped me adjust to playing at the collegiate level. I turned out having a great experience playing field hockey at Babson. Now I'm hoping to have the opportunity to compete at the national level, but I'm going in there with nothing to lose and a lot to gain."
PLAYING AT NATIONAL LEVEL
The Babson team played at a high level during Tango's four years, being not only one of the top teams in the NEWMAC, but in the nation at the Division 3 level.
In her senior season this past fall, and her second year as captain, Tango guided the Babson to a 15-4 overall mark. Starting in 19 games, Tango registered 15 goals along with 14 goals to record a total of 44 points.
Despite the team's successful campaign, the Babson's post-season run came to an end following a 2-1 defeat to MIT in the NEWMAC semifinal contest. This time, Babson was not awarded an at-large bid in the NCAA Division 3 tournament as Tango's four-year field hockey career came to a stunning halt.
"It was tough to finish out your college career in a loss to MIT, and to not receive a bid in the NCAA tournament,'' said Tango. "Now with a chance to try out for the national team, it gives me an opportunity to continue my field hockey career at the national level."
During her senior season, Ryan along with several members of the Babson field hockey coaching staff approached Tango to apply to try out for the United States National Field Hockey team.
"I decided that I had nothing to lose, and to give it a shot," said Tango. "The coaches and I put together a video tape of my highlights over the past four years and then my coaches wrote some recommendations on my behalf and I'm forever grateful for that. The process took about several weeks, and after about a couple of weeks, I heard back that I was invited to try out for a spot on the United States National Team. When I found out I had earned a spot to try out for the team, I couldn't believe it and I'm just so excited and grateful for this opportunity."
TRAINING HARD DURING BREAK
"Ever since I found out I was invited to try out for the team, I've been working with (Mike Boyle) on a daily basis," said Tango. "I've also had to really focus on nutrition as well. I have to be in the best shape of my life entering the tryouts because there's only chance to make a great impression."
Tango has already experienced playing on the United States National Field Hockey facility in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, having participated in the senior All-Star game last month.
"It's a great facility and definitely the state of the art,'' said Tango. "It's going to be challenging, but I love being the underdog and I'm not going to put a lot of pressure on myself. There's a sign in (Mike Boyle's Training Facility) stating that "Opportunity and Preparation Lead to Success" and I'm definitely all for that."
While the training has been intense, for Tango the hard work is definitely worth the opportunity.
"It's probably one of the toughest off-season training regimens I've ever had to endure, but the potential rewards at stake are definitely worth it,'' said Tango. "To have the chance to earn a spot in the national field hockey team is once in a lifetime and I'm going to embrace every moment of it."
Meanwhile, Tango, who was recently named as a captain of the softball team where she's will be the starting third baseman for a fourth straight year.
On the softball diamond, Tango has batted over .300 the past three years. As a junior, she registered a career high .336 batting average while recording 44 hits, including 11 doubles in 43 games played.
"The training is definitely helping me out a lot for softball, but right now, my main focus is making the national team,'' said Tango. "I'm honored to be a part of the process and we'll just have to see what happens. I'm just going to go out there and give it a great effort and enjoy as much of this experience as possible."
A business administration major, Tango is currently slated to graduate as a member of the dean's list and already has a job upon graduation at Ernst & Young.
"It's just an exciting time for me right now, and I'm going to take advantage of it,'' said Tango. "I have a job lined up when I finish college, but who knows what will happen. I'm just trying to take things just one day at a time and go from there."