Five years ago, Ashley Maziarz decided to commute to Pennsylvania for her club soccer.
The Chesterfield, N.J. resident joined the FC Bucks program and quickly realized that she had made a wise move.
“We were pretty good from the start,” said Maziarz, a central defender whose skills have helped her star at the high school level for the Hun School girls’ soccer team.
“We kept building and we got two new coaches last year and they have really helped.”
This summer, that foundation resulted in a national title as FC Bucks won the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) championship in Richmond, Va. last month, defeating Internationals Soccer Club (Ohio) 2-1 in the final.
For Maziarz, the championship sparked a sense of redemption. “We knew it was going to be tough competition,” said Maziarz, who was joined on the FC Bucks squad by Hun teammate and fellow rising senior Jess Sacco.
“We had made it to another national tournament two years ago but we didn’t do too well. We wanted to do better.”
FC Bucks qualified for the ECNL nationals by winning their group in playoffs held in Seattle. The team pulled a draw in its finale to earn one of the eight spots in Richmond, where the format involved two groups of four teams with the winners of each group meeting in the title game.
Coming into the competition, Maziarz had a good feeling about the team’s prospects.
“I think we were playing better; we knew we were going to be playing really good teams in Virginia,” said the Lehigh-bound Maziarz.
“We enjoy moving the ball around and keeping possession. We are not a kick and run team. We like to work it around.”
Starting the nationals with a 2-1 win over the Utah Avalanche gave Maziarz and her teammates the feeling that they could go on a title run.
“I think we had a lot of energy; we were nervous but when we got on the field and started the game we did what we had to do to win,” said Maziarz.
“Our two forwards work well together and they were really clicking. We gained confidence from that win. We realized that we had a shot to win this.”
After topping the St. Louis Scott Gallagher Illinois SLSG-Metro team 2-0 and the East Meadow (N.Y.) Soccer Club 3-2, FC Buck won Group B to set up a clash with the Group A winner, Internationals SC, in the ECNL national title game.
The title contest proved to be a nailbiter with some late drama. “It was back and forth the entire game, near the end they got a penalty kick and our goalie saved it, that was big,” said Maziarz.
“We had about 10 minutes left after the saved PK. We were really, really determined to win. We let go of the fatigue and didn’t think about the heat. They had the trophy on the sidelines and we were looking at it. We wanted to get it.”
Earning that trophy triggered a raucous celebration. “We ran into a pile and we were screaming, it was exciting and awesome,” said Maziarz. “Now we have to live up to that standard. Next year, everyone is going to be looking at us as national champs and trying even harder to beat us.”
This fall, Maziarz and Sacco, who has also committed to Lehigh, are looking for an exciting final season at Hun as the Raiders look to build on an inspiring 2013 campaign that saw them rebound from a 0-7 start to make the state Prep A championship game.
“Jess and I talked about it, we want to win title this year,” asserted Maziarz, who is a team co-captain along with Sacco.
“We are on the same page as to what we want for the season. We saw how this team did at the end of last year and its potential and we want to work as hard as we can.”
Maziarz is primed to continue working hard at the next level. “When I went to Lehigh, I fell in love with the campus,” said Maziarz, who plans to study biomedical engineering.
“I enjoyed the coaches; they made me feel happy when I went there. I met a lot of the girls and they were welcoming, they made me feel comfortable.”
Having Sacco matriculate along with her adds an additional layer of comfort. “We are going to be rooming together; we are close and know each other’s quirks,” said Maziarz. “I am happy to have made the decision.”