Plum grad Ashley Amato hopes to end career on high note at Akron
The Akron women’s soccer team is one of the youngest at the Division I level.
Only one senior is on the 2019 roster: Plum graduate Ashley Amato.
Amato, entering her fourth year as a starting defender, understands her time on campus is winding down, and she wants to do whatever she can to help her team improve in the Mid-American Conference and hopefully make noise beyond conference play.
“I want to go all out this year knowing it’s my last,” said Amato, who has started 47 games in three seasons. “I don’t have that many games left. I also understand how important it is to make myself more of a presence on the team as a leader.”
Amato was selected second-team All-MAC last season as a dual-threat defender. She scored three goals on a team-best 36 shots and 18 shots on goal.
“Ashley is just a great athlete who does what she needs to do to be ready to play,” Akron coach Noreen Herlihy said.
“It’s going to be very important for her to lead by example like she always does. Hopefully, we can qualify for the (Mid-American Conference) Tournament again, and she can help lead us to the next step.”
Akron finished 8-10-2 overall and 5-5-2 in conference play last year. The Zips won four straight to end the regular season and clinch the sixth seed for the MAC Tournament before falling 1-0 to Western Michigan in the first round.
Amato also is hoping for a healthier final season after playing on an injured ankle the past two years. She hurt the ankle shortly before the start of her sophomore season, and after missing a couple of weeks, returned to start 12 of the final 14 games.
The ankle still wasn’t 100 percent last fall, but she made 16 starts.
Amato had surgery on the ankle in December, and recovery lasted to the start of this summer. She has been cleared for full workouts, including conditioning and cutting drills.
“It’s an ongoing thing with my ankle,” said Amato, who also is playing for the Steel City FC women’s amateur team this summer. “I didn’t get to do much the entire spring, so I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity to be on the field this summer.”
Said Herlihy: “Ashley’s been very diligent about working her way back to her best condition and strength. She’s training at a high level now. She wants to finish her college career on a high note, and she’s working hard to achieve that.”
A player pipeline has developed between the Pittsburgh region and Akron. More than a half-dozen WPIAL grads are on this year’s team. A number of them have gathered for workouts this summer.
Annamarie Alfery, a Fox Chapel graduate and junior defender, appreciates the opportunity to share workout time with longtime friends and current teammates such as Amato and Penn-Trafford grad Ryley Watt.
Alfery and Amato, rivals in high school at Fox Chapel and Plum, go back more than a decade to their time as teammates at the youth club level.
“We’ve trained a lot together this summer, probably 10 to 15 times so far, and it’s nice because we motivate and push each other to train even harder,” said Alfery, who seeks an increased role after starting seven games last fall.
“I feel I am in really good shape. I am ready for the season.”
Alfery also appreciates the opportunity to be another experienced leader.
“Because we have a lot of young players, it will be interesting to see how team chemistry develops and how that can translate into playing at a level higher than we did last year,” Alfery said. “I am ready to go in and contribute my all to the team.”
Herlihy said she appreciates Alfery’s work ethic.
“Whether it was a start or she’s come off the bench, she has always affected the game in a positive way,” Herlihy said. “We’re looking for her to have a big year as another veteran player with such a young squad.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .