Five Niles McKinley High School student-athletes signed National Letters of Intent (NLI) during National Signing Day on February 1, 2023! Festivities took place in the high school gym with family, friends, school administrators, and coaches all in attendance. National Signing Day is traditionally held on the first Wednesday of February each year and signifies the first day that a high school senior can sign a binding NLI for a collegiate sport with a school that is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). “This is always one of my favorite days of the year,” says Niles City Schools Athletic Director Marc Fritz. “It marks the end of a lengthy process and is a celebration of your hard work and what’s to come. Congratulations!”
This year’s National Letter of Intent National Signing Day signers are Avallina Aurilio, Brionna Bash, Matt Keeley, Ashton Russon, and Cheyenne Zack!
Avallina Aurilio has committed to Bethany College in West Virginia to play women’s soccer! Aurilio has been a Niles McKinley High School soccer team member for the last four years, playing the outside back position. “This is an amazing day, it feels great,” she said after signing her National Letter of Intent.
Aurilio says the small-town feel and architecture of Bethany College drew her there. She says she’s looking forward to continuing her soccer journey there, working hard, and becoming a valuable team member on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The best part, though, is getting to experience this next chapter with fellow classmate and teammate Brionna Bash, who has also committed to Bethany. “I am so excited to have her with me,” Aurilio says. “We have played soccer together since we were little and going through this will be so much easier with her there to be a support.”
Aurilio says she plans to study biology at Bethany and hopes to become a physical therapist one day. Congratulations Avallina and good luck!
Senior Brionna Bash has committed to Bethany College in West Virginia to play women’s soccer! Bash has been a Niles McKinley High school soccer team member for the last four years, playing the striker position. “This is so exciting,” she said after signing her letter. “It means so much to me that everyone is here to support me.”
Bash says committing to Bethany was an easy decision. She says they were the first college that reached out to her about playing soccer for them, and her aunt also attended the school. “After talking to her and hearing about her experiences there, the other schools just weren’t the same,” Bash says. She’s looking forward to joining the team, working hard, and being a contributing factor to future success. And much like her fellow classmate and teammate Avallina Aurilio, she’s looking forward to going through the experience with a familiar face. “It’s going to be so exciting to have Ava there with me,” Bash says. “This is going to be a much better experience going into it with someone you know.”
Bash says she currently plans to study chemistry with the hopes of one day becoming a pharmacist. Congratulations Brionna and good luck!
Matt Keeley is thrilled to be continuing his football career close to home now that he has officially committed to Youngstown State University! “Football has been a long journey for me,” he said after signing his NLI. “This is like a dream come true.”
A standout lineman at Niles McKinley High for the last four years, Keeley is looking forward to taking his game to the next level. “Coach [Doug] Phillips is one of the best coaches in the area,” he says. “I can not wait to be one of his athletes.” In addition to the program’s coaches, Keeley says the facilities, and again, close proximity to family, made committing to YSU an easy choice.
Though Keeley is currently undecided about his major he says he is considering the nursing field. Congratulations Matt and good luck!
What started off as a childhood dream, just became a very real reality for Ashton Russo. “Ever since I was little I always wanted to run in college, or be a college athlete,” he says. Today, that dream came true when Russo put pen to paper and officially committed to running cross country and track for Malone University in Canton, Ohio!
Russo has been a well-known name on the area's cross-country race courses and running tracks for years. Deciding to take his talents to Malone was an easy choice for Russo who says he can’t wait to get started. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says. “They’re going to get my best!”
Russo currently plans to major in political science and pursue a law career. Congratulations Ryan and good luck!
Cheyenne Zack completed the ‘hat trick’ for McKinley High girls’ soccer, as she became the third member of the team to sign an NLI on National Signing Day. With the stroke of a pen, Zack officially committed to Garrett College in McHenry, Maryland for women’s soccer! “It is so exciting to see all of the support here today, what a great day,” she said after signing her letter.
Like her teammates, Zack has been a member of the Niles McKinley High School girls’ soccer team for the last few years, playing center back. The opportunity to continue playing the sport in the Appalachian Mountains where Garrett is located (a big draw for Zack), is one she doesn’t take for granted. “I’m going to put in the work and be a determined player both on the field and in the classroom,” she says. “The coaches want what’s best for me and I’m very excited to get started.”
Zack currently plans to study psychology while at Garrett. Congratulations Cheyenne and good luck!