August 23, 2017

Becoming a Starter for Lehigh Women’s Soccer, Hun Grad Maziarz Helped Spark Turnaround Season

BALL HAWK: Ashley Maziarz surveys the action from her center back position in action last season during her sophomore season for the Lehigh University women’s soccer team. Former Hun School standout Maziarz played a key role for a stingy Mountain Hawk defensive unit that started the 2016 season with eight straight shutouts as Lehigh went on to post an 11-5-2 record. Last Friday, Maziarz started her junior campaign by helping Lehigh play to a 0-0 draw through two overtimes with visiting Monmouth. (Photo Courtesy of Lehigh Athletics)

During her career with the Hun School girls’ soccer team, Ashley Maziarz played a big role as the program reached new heights.

Starring at midfield and defense, Maziarz’s skill and clutch play helped Hun win the state Prep A title in the fall of 2014. Maziarz’s brilliant goal on a free kick proved to be the game winner in the title contest as Hun stunned perennial power Pennington 2-0.

Moving on to Lehigh in the fall of 2015 and joining its women’s soccer team, Maziarz has become a key piece in the ascension of another program.

After playing a reserve role as a freshman when the Mountain Hawks went 7-8-3, Maziarz broke into the starting lineup at center back last fall, fortifying a defense that started the season with eight straight shutouts as Lehigh went on to an 11-5-2 campaign.

“We finally made it to the Patriot League playoffs for the first time in a few years so that was a big step for us,” said Maziarz, reflecting on the team’s improvement in a season that ended when the Mountain Hawks fell 1-0 to Lafayette in double overtime in the league quarterfinals.

“We set goals to achieve every year and the ultimate goal is to be Patriot League champions. There are many steps you have to take to make it there and our first step was making it to the playoffs which we finally did so we feel like we are making progress towards that ultimate goal.”

Maziarz had to take steps to get on the field after making nine appearances off the bench in her debut campaign.

“Freshman year was kind of hard for me, I didn’t get to play in many games,” said Maziarz,  who is joined on the Lehigh squad by former Hun teammate Jess Sacco.

“I learned from the experience; I had to learn to fill my role in a different way. It was work harder practicing and learn from the older girls. I worked on getting better at practices and doing everything I could to improve to make it out on the field.

After becoming a starter at center back last fall, Maziarz continued to get better and better.

“As the season went on, my biggest improvement was my positioning in the field,” said Maziarz.

“I am used to the ball work and the passing. I am pretty accurate with that stuff but as far as the positioning, I had a lot to learn. Just because in college, it is a different speed of play and I can’t be constantly going up the field. I was used to that and a lot of times the play was faster and I was behind on things. I think the biggest thing for me was through freshman year until now, I have learned where I need to be in reference to the game.”

The defensive unit as a whole got on the same page over the course of the 2016 campaign.

“Our goalie [Sam Miller] communicated very well with us,” said Maziarz.

“Defensively, she is always telling us where to be on the field directing us as much as she can. She sees the play very well and if she thinks things are too hectic and needs to slow down, she tells us. I think, positioning-wise, we are just very connected throughout the back line. I had more of a holding role defensively. The other center back likes to get forward a lot more so we really balance well for each other as far as going and staying and just balancing out the field.”

The Mountain Hawks showed their balance at both ends of the field in a riveting 3-2 victory over eventual Patriot League champion Bucknell in late October.

“I think Bucknell was huge for us because we went into the game knowing how well they had been doing,” said Maziarz.

“It forced us to bring our A-game and all of our forwards and defensemen were on point. Our goalkeeper made this huge, phenomenal save in the first half on a shot that could have drastically changed the game. Every single player on our team was locked in and focused and that was what contributed to it.”

Having focused this summer on recovering from a knee injury, Maziarz was happy to be back with her teammates in early August to start preseason training.

“The biggest contributing factor to last year was the closeness of the team,” said Maziarz.

“We all got along very well and that correlates directly onto the field. If you trust your teammates, you are playing for your teammates. That is what is going to drive you further and further. Right now we are just focusing on continuing to build those relationships. On the field, we are trying to do the little things as best as we can because once you get the little things, then everything else will fall into place.”

Last Friday, Maziarz and the Lehigh defense took care of the little things as the Mountain Hawks started the season with a 0-0 draw through two overtimes against visiting Monmouth in its season opener.

“We are just taking it day by day, right now we are trying to win as many games as we can and take it to the Patriot League,” said Maziarz.

“Once we are in league play, we want to step up our game even further. We have got to make that jump even bigger. Last year, we played well in the beginning but we need to ramp it up one more notch for the playoffs.”