Lawrence soccer player Evelin Dapprich dribbles the ball during a 1-0 loss at Notre Dame Oct. 3, 2018. (Staff photo by Samantha Sciarrotta.)

Just because Evelin Dapprich has been a talented, productive player throughout her soccer career, it doesn’t mean she is unfamiliar with adversity.

Some frightening adversity at that.

The Lawrence High School senior will take her abilities to the University of Rhode Island next year, after being spotted by the Rams at a showcase last winter. Prior to that, however, Dapprich had to deal with some injuries that sidetracked her for a while.

The first came during her freshman year, when Dapprich earned a starting job but suffered a knee sprain midway through the season. The x-ray showed a tumor on the femur slightly above her knee. Just the word “tumor” itself leads to apprehension, and Dapprich was no different as she waited to see if it was malignant.

“While they waited for my MRI results, I was not allowed to play for the remainder of the season,” she said. “Since my femur was thinner in that part of my leg, they did not want me to get hit and have my bone break. It turned out to be something pretty common called a non-ossifying fibroma, which is essentially just a part of the bone that has not calcified yet. It was pretty scary though, because you never think that something like that could happen to you until it suddenly does.”

It didn’t help her attitude that she was stuck on the bench for the second half of the season.

“I was very disappointed to have to sit out,” she said. “I think being injured and watching a game from the sidelines is one of the worst feelings as an athlete, because all you want to do is jump up and play, but you’re stuck.”

Dapprich returned to play with her Princeton Soccer Association Wildcats team in the spring, and was healthy throughout her sophomore season while collecting four goals and four assists for the Cardinals. But that April, as the result of getting slide tackled during a club game in New York, Dapprich partially tore her ACL, LCL, PCL, and her posterolateral corner tendon.

“Luckily, I was able to avoid surgery since they were not complete tears,” she said. “But I was still out for about four months. Getting back from that injury was really hard because I had to get back my strength and endurance, and mentally I was afraid of tearing it again. I had to wear a knee brace until this March, which also held me back.”

Thus, she struggled to get back in a rhythm during the first part of the high school season but eventually re-emerged as a quality player. Dapprich had two goals and three assists in helping Lawrence to a 9-9-1 campaign, its best record in years.

“It was exciting to finally step back onto the field and play,” she said. “We had an amazing year at LHS and it was so nice to just have fun playing again.”

‘We have had big shoes to fill. We have to step up and set a precedent for the younger girls to follow.’

Dapprich’s return made it fun for her coach and teammates as well. Things have gotten even better this year, with her health still good and the pressure of choosing a college no longer present.

“She’s enjoying it,” coach Emily Palombo said. “She just plays with more confidence and kind of plays more relaxed now that she knows she’s going somewhere. She looks super fit, she’s been lifting in the weight room with us. She can play a full game; she’s one of the most fit players in the program, if not the fittest player in the program. She can move, she’s fast, she works her butt off every time she’s out there. She’s worked really, really hard to get where she is.”

That work started with a soccer ball at Dapprich’s feet from the time she started walking. She played rec soccer at age 4 and joined the Lawrence Hamnett travel program in second grade, staying with her hometown league until moving to PSA as a freshman.

As a left back for the Wildcats, Dapprich noted that she is “essentially a midfielder because I get into the attack very often.” That worked out well for Palombo, who moved her to center-midfield at Lawrence. The reason being, “she’s extremely technical, has great vision and great finesse on the ball. She’s kind of our playmaker up the middle.”

“Evie is just very creative,” the coach continued. “She’s very strong on the ball. She just has that touch. She’s tall and that helps with that situation. The fact she can play pretty much anywhere also helps.”

Her responsibilities are somewhat increased, as Dapprich is called on to facilitate as well as score and defend.

“The play goes through you a lot more and you have to distribute the ball quickly, switch the attack, and play through-balls for your forwards,” she said. “I think it was a good adjustment for me, though, because both positions are a lot of running up and back and playing box to box.”

Aside from her natural finesse, Dapprich has also bought into her coach’s wishes of using her body strength more.

“Her game has come a long way in terms of how physical she is,” Palombo said. “That’s something I’ve tried to work on with her since she was a freshman. Ever since she came into the program, she’s been an impact player. But like all freshmen she was kind of shocked at how physical it can be when they’re going against 18 year olds. Now she rarely gets knocked off that ball, which has been a big aspect of her game that has improved.”

Her natural ability along with that improvement has Dapprich bound for a Division I soccer career in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The Rhode Island coaches got a brief glimpse of her during a club game in Connecticut last January, but they got their first real look at the Jefferson Cup showcase in Henrico, Virginia, two months later. Fortunately for the player, they stuck around to watch her the entire day instead of crossing her off after one match.

“My first game was not my best and I was mad at myself because I knew I could do better,” said Dapprich, who will play outside back in college. “I always get nervous before games, especially in big tournaments like Jefferson Cup when I know there are college scouts lined up around the fields. I played much better in our second and third games so I was a lot happier with my performance. Once they did contact me, I think it gave me a little more confidence because I knew I must be doing something right.”

Soon after URI contacted Dapprich, Palombo discovered that a girl she once coached while at Hopewell—Jenna Caldwell —was a Rams assistant. By that point, the coaches were sold on the Cardinal, but Palombo made sure Caldwell knew exactly what they were getting.

“When I talked to Jenna, they were looking for a player that could kind of do everything and just had some grit to them and was super fit; and Evie kind of hit all those places,” she said. “Evie is a finesse player, just has this incredible vision. Sometimes she sees things that other people don’t see on the field. She’s been working hard, she’s very good at setting people up, she also has a rocket of a shot. And, she’s a lefty, so I know that makes her a little more desirable to some people if they’re looking for a lefty to play on that side.”

Although she is not receiving an athletic scholarship, Dapprich gave her verbal commitment last June, with academics also playing a big part in her decision. With thoughts of going into business, she was impressed by the URI College of Business. She also loved the team, campus and surrounding area.

But for now, she will enjoy one last high school season as she tries to fill a leadership void left when Lawrence graduated 11 seniors from last year’s team.

“Not only were they really strong players, they were great leaders and they really helped to turn our program around,” Dapprich said. “This year, there are only four of us, so we have had big shoes to fill. We have to step up and set a precedent for the younger girls to follow. We are trying to be a good example, even if it is something as small as jogging over to the bench to get water; rather than walking.”

That’s not a problem for Dapprich. The fact she missed so much time early in her high school career makes being healthy and on the field a joy no matter how hard the work.