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Ashley and Chloe Humphrey

The Humphrey Connection: Ashley Joins Top Freshman Chloe at UNC

November 17, 2023
Beth Ann Mayer
North Carolina Athletics

At Darien (Conn.) High School, the public address announcer would gleefully announce “Humphrey to Humphrey” every time sisters Nicole and Ashley connected for a goal. They called it the Humphrey connection.

When Nicole graduated and headed to North Carolina in 2019, the “Humphrey connection” was set to enter a new era when Chloe began her freshman year at Darien.

But it never happened. The pandemic canceled the 2020 season — Ashley’s last at Darien before going to Stanford as one of the top recruits in her class.

In 2024, the sisters will finally get their chance at UNC. Ashley officially transferred to Chapel Hill from Stanford in November. (Nicole is on her own adventure out west, having graduated from UNC. She decided to play her final season at USC.)

“Missing out on that 2020 high school season was devastating for us,” Ashley said. “I had played with Nicole before. The opportunity to play with Chloe would have been incredible, and that got taken away from us. When I was presented with the opportunity to not only get one but two chances to win a national championship together, I couldn’t turn it down.”

And besides, “UNC has been a family affair for us,” Ashley said. “Obviously, it’s been a family affair that I had been a little left out of.”

Perhaps in recent memory. But the sisters grew up attending camps and clinics in Chapel Hill when all three caught head coach Jenny Levy’s eye. Chloe was 6 or 7 at the time but stood out for a few reasons.

“She was this tiny little thing with a high school/college stick at the age of 7,” Levy said. “Chloe has been so special since she was little.”

But the youngest of three Humphrey girls (they also have a younger brother, Brett) grew into her stick and her own. Her achievements before playing a college game are too long to name. In short, Chloe wrapped her career at Darien with 209 goals, 80 assists, 289 points, 62 caused turnovers, 77 ground balls and 99 draw controls. She was named the 2023 USA Lacrosse High School Player of the Year and is on the U.S. U19 training team. She enters the spring as the incoming freshman, according to Inside Lacrosse. 

“There are a lot of things that being the third sister in a strong lacrosse household — a lot of your accomplishments get jaded as ‘been there, done that,’” Ashley said. “Chloe has really made a name for herself. It was really satisfying to see everything she did in the backyard pay off.”

Part of the payoff was an active Sept. 1 of her junior year. Unsurprisingly, Chloe had plenty of programs interested in her. UNC always stood out.

“Everyone here strives for greatness, and you can tell with the success they’ve had, especially in women’s sports,” Chloe said.

A former soccer player, Chloe knew all about greats like Mia Hamm.

“There are so many legends that went here — Michael Jordan,” Chloe said. “It’s no joke.”

Chloe was also interested in playing with one of her sisters, and, at the time, Nicole could have possibly still been a Tar Heel during her rookie season courtesy of the pandemic’s fifth year waiver. But what about Ashley? At times, the youngest Humphrey felt internally pulled to two drastically different parts of the country. Her parents, Sarah and John, encouraged her to remove the sister-factor.

“They told me, ‘It’s where you want to play. Don’t follow in the footsteps of your sisters. Make your own path,’” Chloe said.

Ultimately, it was UNC for Chloe. It always had been. Meanwhile, speaking of carving a path, Ashley did that at Stanford. After redshirting as a freshman in 2021 at the urging of Cardinal head coach Danielle Spencer to avoid using a year full of pandemic-related disruptions, Ashley made her anticipated debut in 2022. She came as advertised, setting NCAA single-season records for assists (88) and assists per game (4.63) and helping Stanford to a Pac-12 crown.

However, the Cardinal struggled to find footing last season, finishing 10-8 and losing to Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. Still, Ashley led the league with 42 assists. A senior academically, she started to feel the clock ticking on her collegiate playing days.

“It comes quickly,” Ashley said. “I wanted to switch gears and pursue my crazy lacrosse dream.”

Ashley entered the portal, and Levy didn’t hesitate to give a buzz to a player she watched grow up.

“Feeding is a special talent — the skillset it takes, the vision it takes,” Levy said. “Feeders are like point guards. They make the players around them better. Our system is high IQ and ball movement-based. We have always been a team that values players that see the ball. For us, it was a natural interest.”

The Tar Heels also value depth and were in search of an eighth attacker to complement a group of returners, including Reilly Casey (38 G, 24 A), Caitlyn Wurzburger (37 G, 35 A), Caroline Godine (31 G, 24 A) and Marissa White (46 G, 3 A). The group came together last season — the first without Jamie Ortega and Scottie Rose Growney — helping UNC return to the ACC tournament championship game and earn a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Chloe got a chance to build chemistry with the returners during the fall, but Ashley did not practice or scrimmage with the team. Still, she got plenty of intel from her younger sister.

“She sends me game film, which I watch,” Ashley said. “She’s preparing me for what it is going to take and look like.”

Studying film is one way the two sisters have enjoyed their own version of a “Humphrey connection” over the years. Though they may never have gotten to play together outside of pickup games in the backyard, film study is the Humphrey version of movie night. Their flick of choice?

“We were talking, and they were like, ‘We’ve watched your championship game in 2016 like 100 times,’” Levy said. “They sat down and dissected lots of different games, whether it be Carolina games or others where they see trends in what other elite players are doing. They are both students of the game. We will see that connection start to grow, probably more than it ever has, while at Carolina.”

Chloe has also been a student of her sisters. Nicole and Ashley are a year apart, giving them a special bond all their own, but the larger gap between them and Chloe gave her a chance to watch and learn.

“Nicole is the hardest worker I have ever met,” Chloe said. “She is always finding ways to get better. Ashley is just fun to play with. She is the biggest student of the game. She taught me how to cradle. We have a unique cradle, and I credit her for that.”

But Ashley and Chloe will bring different skills to Chapel Hill in 2024.

“She is more of a feeder, heads up, next play, whereas I am more of a dodger,” Chloe said. “She’s usually feeding me. She looks at the field from behind the cage. She’s more looking upwards, while I’m looking downward toward the cage, which will be a good dynamic to have. You get both perspectives on the field.”

Their distinct personalities (and birth order, at least in Chloe’s case) also shine through on the field.

“Ashley is very serious,” Levy said. “She’s a tactician. She sees things a special way because of her feeding ability. Chloe is a typical youngest. She just goes for it.”

But the two have at least one thing in common besides their last name, and neither missed a beat when sharing their 2024 goal.

“National championship,” Ashley said. “I want to win a national championship.”

You can consider the Humphreys connected on this one.