By Ian Ferguson
Ashley Quesada is the leading scorer for the Blaine girls soccer team, but it’s more than goal scoring that makes her an attractive prospect for college coaches. She has already played at the professional level, and demonstrates an ease and love for the game that is rare in a high school senior.
Quesada, whose father Gio Quesada is from Costa Rica, tried out for the Costa Rican national women’s development team when she was 16 years old. She made the team, even though she was younger than most and she couldn’t always understand the coaches.
“I was nervous,” she said. “My Spanish is OK, but sometimes they would speak too fast and I’d say, ‘Wait, what was that? I didn’t understand,’ and the coach would have to say it in a different way. It was kind of a challenge, but I got the hang of it over the time I was there.”
Quesada thrived on the team, playing at forward. The next summer, she was invited to return to Costa Rica and play for a Division I professional team. This time, as a 17-year-old, she was competing with players in their 20s and 30s.
“It was surprising to find out how young I was compared to everyone on the team, but it was so much fun. It was an amazing experience,” Quesada said. “At first, like on any team, I was the new girl so people didn’t really talk to me. But by the end of it I got really close to everyone on the team. They were all really nice.”
The ability to thrive in unfamiliar situations is something college coaches are keen to find in incoming freshman. Quesada has played for select teams across Whatcom County, and for Blaine schools since she was in elementary school. Combine that with her experience playing soccer in Costa Rica, and it’s plain to see fitting in with new teammates won’t be a problem for her.
Quesada began playing soccer when she was three years old. Her father, who also played professionally in Costa Rica, was clearly an influence.
“He and I would just practice for fun,” Quesada said. “At one point he asked me if I wanted to dance or play soccer. I always saw my dad playing soccer and I wanted to be like my dad. I just thought it was so fun, so I kept playing soccer all the way through school.”
This year, Quesada is a captain of the Blaine varsity team. She has scored 12 of the team’s 15 goals this season and is in the top 10 for goals scored in the league. Still, she sees her role as more of a team motivator and support giver.
“I try to get everyone excited for the game and support everyone,” Quesada said.
Blaine head coach Kelly Tuski echoed that sentiment.
“Ashley has great rapport with her teammates,” Tuski said. “She is able to be tough and direct with players while maintaining respect and good relationships.”
Playing in Costa Rica, Quesada had to adapt to a different style of play. She found out that slide tackling was routine in Costa Rica, where in American high school girls soccer a slide tackle will earn a red card. Conversely, any pushing or use of the hands is forbidden in Costa Rica.
“I learned pretty early on a little push there is a yellow card. I barely touched a girl and I got a yellow card. Then later I got taken out with a slide tackle and there was no card. I was like, OK, that’s how it is,” Quesada said.
Stretching, apparently, is a little different in Costa Rica as well.
“I started doing a stretch we do here in America and everyone was looking at me funny. They were like, ‘What are you doing?’ They were all laughing, it was funny. I tried to bring back some of the Costa Rican stretches, but they’re just weird,” Quesada said.
Although she would like to continue playing soccer in Costa Rica, Quesada said she is focused on playing college soccer for now. She is considering several schools, including the University of Hawaii at Hilo and Cornell College in Iowa.
Gio said the father in him would prefer her to be close to home so he can watch her games, but the coach in him knows she will choose the school that is best for her.
“She told me she wants to go to a school where she will get a lot of playing time,” Gio Quesada said. “That’s encouraging, because it means she’s in it for the love of the game, not just to say she’s a college athlete.”
When asked if her father is her biggest fan, Quesada said, “Yeah, he really is. Him and my mom and my brother. But I get a lot of support from my teammates and my coaches. They all want to see me go far in life, and it feels really good to have that support. I love them.”
Tuski said it’s been a pleasure watching Quesada develop as a player over the last three years.
“As a sophomore, she was feisty and quick, and a great playmaker, but her composure in front of the net was still developing,” Tuski said. “Last year she gained a bit more leadership on the team as our junior captain, and we watched her game improve as she helped lead others in the charge. This year has been fun to watch. Something clicked, and her touch on the ball and composure in front of the net is spot-on. She has a rocket shot, but knows when to ease up and tap the ball into the corner.”
Even more important for Tuski were the games when Quesada gladly agreed to anchor the defense.
“We were missing three starting defenders, and she stepped into the back with ease. Her quickness and ability to read the other team’s attack was amazing. While she is a great forward, I think she would have a lot of success on defense in her post-high school play,” Tuski said.
Quesada has aspirations to play beyond college, in Costa Rica perhaps, but for now she is focused on the next step. Still, she’s been excited to watch her former teammates succeed on the world stage. She has watched two of her former teammates play for Costa Rica in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Vancouver.
“One of them, Gloriana Villalobos, she’s really good and one of my best friends I had down there. And Maria Paula Coto as well. They played there and I was like, wow, I want to do that. That is so awesome,” Quesada said.