Ashley Stemmeler played youth soccer on an FC Milwaukee team coached by Christian Lavers that went on a remarkable run of national achievement over 3 years. During the team’s U16 – U18 seasons, the team proved itself as consistently one of the top 10 teams in the country by winning the USYS Midwest Regional League once and finishing second once, qualifying for 2 USYS Region II Midwest Championship Finals (where they dropped both heartbreaking games in overtime), and qualifying for both the Disney Showcase –Showcase Division Finals and the San Diego Surf Cup Finals (losing in overtime again). Ashley had tremendous versatility as a player, featuring in almost every position on the field throughout her career - as a center midfielder, an outside midfielder, an outside back, and even as a center back for a short stint. She played club soccer year round every year of high school except her freshman year, and played in the WPSL each season of her college career, helping lead the 2010 WPSL team to the WPSL Final Four. Last season, she was a member of the FC Wisconsin Eclipse U23 Team that played in the U23 ECNL National Championship.
Now in her senior season at Marquette University, Ashley has played in 75 games since 2009 (she red-shirted in 2010 due to a broken leg), starting 27 of them. Her versatility as a youth has continued in college, where she has also played a variety of different positions. Her junior season in 2012-2013, she was honored as a Big East All-Academic Team member.
How did you pick Marquette University as the place you wanted to go to school and play college soccer?
"I wasn’t really sure where I was interested in going to school - it can be quite overwhelming because there are so many to choose from! In the end, the school, the team, the coaches, and the program should mean something to you, to the point where you can see yourself being a part of it all. You need to ask yourself - ’Do I see myself being happy here?’ For me, Marquette was close to home and my family could still attend all of my games. It also offered the major I was interested in obtaining. Additionally, I really liked the coaches. I saw that they genuinely cared about me as a person and wanted me to be a part of the team. There are many things to factor in, and at the end of the day, I could not have been happier with my decision."
How did the training and competition you had as a youth player help prepare you for collegiate success?
"My training and competition as a youth player really did help me prepare for my collegiate career. I played club soccer throughout high school, but that was because I wanted to be at the best possible level when preparing to transition into college. In club, I was constantly in a competitive environment against the top competition and players, and I truly felt it prepared me well for college soccer. From fitness level, to training environment, to competitive opponents, all of my needs to go forward as a top soccer player were met. However, most importantly, I was receiving the coaching I needed. It is crucial to have coaches who understand the game and understand players well in order to help you improve as a player. Coaches tell you how to improve and structure drills and lessons around those needs. I can say I had some of the best coaching through my high school years to prepare me for college."
What are your favorite memories of playing in club?
"Club soccer was my life growing up, so there are so many great memories. It took me all across the United States to cities and states I would probably not have been to if it had not been for soccer. Club soccer pulls in families and teammates whom you would not associate with, or even know, if it wasn’t for soccer. These connections are something truly special and something you will hold on to forever. Some of my closest friends are from my club team because you spend so much time together and have all put in the same commitment as one another. From dance parties in the hotels, to funny dinner conversations, to long road trips, to cracking jokes in practice, I will cherish those memories forever."
How do you think your soccer career (youth and college) helped you most?
"Soccer has definitely shaped who I am as a person. Soccer has tested me in many ways- both physically and mentally. There are many highs and lows in sports. Working through these extremes has taught me many lessons which are applicable to other aspects of life. Being a part of a team and involved in a sport is more than just about the sport. You learn many life skills, like time management, working with other, handling criticism, etc., and in the end you will be thankful for it all."
What is the best piece of advice you wish someone had given you while you were a youth soccer player?
"The best piece of advice I wish someone would have given me as a youth player would have been to know that there is always time to improve if you work at it. Players develop at different ages. Some will peak early in their lives, while others are still growing and getting better. If you are not at a level where you want to be, work at it, and over time you will find yourself achieving those goals. Take your coaches’ advice and run with it. Your teammates are there to help you out as well, so bring them with you as everyone tries to get better."