Something clicked for Blaine sophomore soccer forward Ashley Quesada during the Borderites' playoff push last season.
Quesada, an experienced player with successful family roots in the sport, tallied five goals and five assists for a Blaine team that played deep into the Class 1A Tri-District Tournament.
Four of those goals and three of those assists came in the final seven matches.
"I matured and got better with more play time," Quesada said during a phone interview.
Her season-ending play has carried over to this fall, and the short and speedy sophomore has already surpassed last year's goals total at the midway point of the season.
Her eight goals ties her for fourth most in the Northwest Conference. She also has one assist.
After making a strong enough impression on longtime Blaine coach Dan Steelquist to earn varsity minutes last year, it didn't take long for new Blaine coach Kelly Tuski to recognize Quesada's talent, either.
"She is a natural at the game of soccer," Tuski said in a phone interview. "She has very natural ball-handling abilities. She can see the field well and obviously it runs in her family."
Blaine's leading scorer started playing soccer at 3 years old. She's thrived in club soccer and gives credit to her dad, Giovanni Quesada, for her love of the sport. Giovanni played professionally in Costa Rica and even got a tryout with the national team, Ashley said.
The soccer bond Ashley and Giovanni share has become even tighter this year, as Giovanni is one of Tuski's assistant coaches.
"It's just so much fun to have my dad there and have his support," Ashley said. "His guidance helps me to become a better soccer player."
While Ashley's goals this year, most of which have come on breakaway one-on-ones with the opposing keeper, are individual finishes, both Ashley and Tuski attribute the rest of the team for her success.
Blaine (3-5-1, 2-4-0 NWC) has a strong midfield, and senior leader Olivia Olason has made a habit of connecting with Quesada. Tuski didn't elaborate on exactly how Quesada scores as she does and didn't want to unearth any tactical secrets. She simply said Ashley just "works her magic."
"Olivia is a very strong central midfielder, and she can feed the ball in well," Tuski said. "That is a great combination with Olivia and Ashley. Our attack forms from all over the field, but that combo is really fun to watch."
Ashley biggest efforts this year came against Nooksack Valley when she recorded a hat trick, and she also scored twice against Lynden Christian, helping the Borderites earn an important NWC victory. The win will go a long ways in helping Blaine return to the postseason.
Ashley said her ability to so often earn breakaways is testament to "instinct and execution," and while most of her goals have come from close range, Tuski said she wouldn't mind seeing her sophomore shooting more from outside the 18-yard box.
Tuski said Ashley does a solid job of reading when and when not to be selfish with the ball, but scoring from deep would add another element to Ashley's game and make an even more complete forward.
Besides Ashley's skill, Tuski raved about her intangibles.
"She never quits, and she is always positive with her teammates on the field," Tuski said.
Tuski has emphasized team unity since she's taking over at Blaine, and Ashley is a major proponent of her team working as a single unit.
Her skill coupled with her team-oriented attitude makes the Blaine coach excited to work with her for two more years.
"I feel like it's a complete privilege to coach young players like that," Tuski said.
Like her Giovanni, Ashley hopes success in soccer will allow her to play after high school.
"I want to continue to challenge myself in soccer," she said, "and I want to work hard and take it further into college."
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