It was very cold that morning, frost glazing across the turf with a slight breeze. But the only chills I will ever remember feeling that day were from looking at the “NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship” signs I saw all around College Stadium and the excitement I felt as the field was setup for another game day.
The previous weekend was going to be hard to top. Not only had we won the SUNYAC title, but we also upped our record to 16-1-2, which was one of the best in program history. The energy we had on the field during the finals was incredible. Our fans cheered every single second of the game, all the way to the final whistle of our 4-0 win over Plattsburgh.
When Geneseo popped up on the screen as the brackets were announced that following Monday during the selection show and we were HOSTING first and second round games, I’ve never heard a group of people scream louder.
A small school in the middle-of-nowhere Western New York was hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAAs…in what world.
At practice that afternoon, everyone was super motivated and pumped to train for another week. We were one of 64 teams still standing. If you had asked me during preseason if we were still going to be out there in mid-November, I would have laughed, but we had a strong group of newcomers to fill the hole left by a huge class that had graduated, in addition to some pretty great returners (wink!).
Back for my junior season, I tried to help the first-years feel comfortable and build a competitive mindset as the season started, while all of us did our best to make sure all the new faces were adjusting to college, both on and off the field, and progressing each week. It was definitely a team effort, but it had paid off all season long.
Training that week before our first NCAA match was tough, but we knew we had to work our tails off. We did drills meant specifically to prepare us for a competitive weekend.
The Friday before the game, we only had one hour to practice on the game field. That one hour of practice was the best I’d had in my life. Even though it was 14 degrees out, I felt alive. I was aggressive, calling for the ball, making runs, and winning the ball in almost every tackle. Every one of my teammates was on their A-game. Not one person had a bad practice. It was awesome.
The last minute of our small-sided scrimmage, I scored on a header from a beautiful cross from my teammate, Julia Ophals. “YES ASHBYRNE!” was all I heard from my teammates. It was a such a good feeling to score like that and be able to play so well as a team. It felt like everyone was connected. Shortly after practice ended, we cooled down and one of our seniors gave us a pump-up speech to prepare us for the next day. I knew we were ready.
My parents weren’t going to be able to make it to Geneseo for the weekend, so they called me that Friday to wish me luck. My mom and dad are super supportive and have always been there for me. I am grateful to have two amazing, strong people that push me beyond my limits.
Neither of my parents had it easy growing up. My dad lost his father at a young age and grew up in a rough part of Queens, but still managed to get a college education and head in the right direction despite the obstacles he met. He would always remind me growing up that, no matter what you faced each day, with the right mindset and attitude, you could do anything.
My mother was raised in Peru, outside the capital city of Lima in a town called Rimac. I remember her stories about bombs going off every week due to the lack of government stability. About how hard my grandmother used to work to keep food on the table and a roof over her and her siblings’ heads. About how my mother was sent to America when she was the same age as I am right now, all by herself and speaking little English, to live a better life.
My mom is my rock. Three years ago, I got to visit where she was born and it changed my life.
At an early age, she told me, “Sí, Se Puede.” which in Spanish translates to, “You can do it.” Whether it was soccer or in school, never give up. That is how she got to where she was in her life and that is the motto I live by every day.
I know, no matter what adversity comes my way, I can overcome it with the mentality my parents engrained in me. They worked really hard to give my brother and I an amazing life, better than what they had, and I am thankful to have them inspire me to work hard and always know that I can always do the impossible.
I knew that I had to make my parents proud.
¡Sí, Se Puede!