Soccer scholarship a special one for late blooming superstar

With a scholarship in hand, Sarnia soccer player Ashley McDonald is headed to Holy Cross College in Indiana. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

In her first soccer game at three-years-old, Ashley McDonald cried and refused to go on the field.

But last week the Northern Collegiate grad started her first season at Holy Cross College with a soccer scholarship.

“I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, working really hard,” said McDonald, 18. “I was just really excited and looking forward to how I could build on my soccer skills and skills in school.”

At Holy Cross, located near South Bend, Indiana, McDonald is studying psychology. On the field, she’ll compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which has about 250 member schools.

McDonald had a late start in soccer, her parents said. After her first and last game as a child, she didn’t kick a soccer ball again until she was 12.

Her interest was rekindled when she volunteered with a soccer program her father, Steve McDonald, was running through Huron Baptist Church. She entered an organized league for the first time shortly after.

She quickly showed potential, and by grade nine she was playing for clubs in Strathroy and Michigan, where she competed in the Midwest Regional League. She also took the field with Northern’s varsity squad.

“Sometimes it got to be a lot… but I love soccer, so it was great.”

Recruiters from Florida, Michigan, Texas and California were all knocking as the defender and midfielder approached the end of high school, her dad said. But her heart was set on Holy Cross, a college with close ties to Notre Dame.

Since ninth grade, Ashley and her father made annual trips to the University town to watch the Fighting Irish play football. Ashley declared that one day she would play there too.

“We’ve always gone for football games and it’s just a special place,” she said. “When I go there it feels like home already.”

She impressed the coaches at Holy Cross when she was given a tryout, her father recalled. But as the COVID-19 pandemic loomed communication cooled off.

The family was touring a fall-back college in New York State when the call came in from Holy Cross.

She thanks her coaches and parents for her success.

“It’s going to be tough for us letting her go,” noted her father.