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Kickin’ It

This article was originally published in the June 2017 edition of Lake Norman Currents.
  Ashlynn Serepca’s loves soccer with a splash of the lake…   There is beauty and grace in soccer, and to see it played well, there is no need to look beyond the local area. Lake Norman-area high school teams routinely dominate not only the state, but also the national, rankings. and if you are looking for the best of the best, simply catch the Hough High School’s girls’ team at a practice or a game.   Then put your focus on Ashlynn Serepca. When the ball moves up the field with a surgeon’s precision, then finds its way to the back of the net, chances are good the rising senior standout had something to do with it.  

On the pitch

Serepca’s love of soccer took root at a young age. Thinking back to her beginnings, first as a three year old at Strikers Soccer Center, then progressing through co-ed and, at the age of 10, single sex teams, Ashlynn Serepca, now 16, says she knew almost right away that soccer was the sport that filled her heart.   “I experimented with sports, yes. I did soccer, dance and gymnastics, and even played some basketball in middle school, but every time I went out there [on the soccer field] I had a love I didn’t have anywhere else,” she says. “And if you love something, why should you stop doing it? So I kept playing.”   Through the Carolina Soccer Academy and later the Carolina Rapids, she caught the eye of national team staff while playing in big tournaments with her club team then attending higher level training camps at the state level. While some players folded under the scrutiny and pressure that comes with having almost every drill, touch and movement graded, Serepca shined.   “I loved, and still love, that I’m meeting girls from all across the country who are out there trying their best, all working to get better themselves and as a team, and we are becoming best friends in the process,” she explains. “I love the pressure no matter what, it brings out my best.”   Her favorite part of the game, you might ask?   “Scoring goals,” she says as her eyes light up. “As a team we all work so hard and give everything for each other. Scoring goals is what a team needs to win, so if that’s what I can do then that’s what I love.”   “But as opposing teams make adjustments, and Ashlynn is no secret anymore,” adds Coach David Smith, “she has become equally dangerous creating plays for her teammates and assisting on their goals. We are blessed to have a team deep in talent, and Ashlynn plays unselfishly.”   In the last year, Serepca’s trajectory has continued upwards. In November 2015, she made her first overseas appearance wearing red, white and blue as a member of U. S. Soccer’s Under-16 squad playing in Amsterdam. Three months later, she joined Team USA’s U-18 squad for three matches in England, beating both Norway and the host country. She is now squarely on both the sport’s national and international radar and, back home playing club and high school, it is almost a given teams will double and even triple team her.   Once solely a forward, she now plays both as an attacker and midfielder, the latter to help create space in front of her to better position her teammates and better control the ball moving forward. With the changes, she has developed a unique style.   “As far as role models, and those I try to model my game after,” she shares, “I try to play with the speed of Alex Morgan and finish with all surfaces of the foot, and play with composure in the final third, like Kristen Press.”  

On the lake

For Serepca, there really is no off season, she transitions almost directly from her winter and spring high school season directly to her summer and fall club competitions (and Team USA is always on her mind). But there is something close to home that serves as a counterbalance to the pressures and pace of her day.   “The lake,” says the lifelong Cornelius resident, “is and always has been my favorite part of living here. Any time I have down time, I’m on the lake with my friends, tubing, tanning, listening to [country] music, wakeboarding or just relaxing, especially after long days of working out.”   She believes it was her parents, Dave and Gina, who instilled the love of water in her and her brother, Joel.   “When we were little, my parents took my brother and I out on the lake all the time and we’d sleep in the cabin below,” she says with a bit of nostalgia. “We weren’t that different from other families in my neighborhood either.”   Then there is shopping.   “Shopping is my thing and my mom and I are the worst. We share everything and neither of us can say ‘no,’” she says. “There is Birkdale, Northlake or even South Park and any time we go, which is a little too often, we love it. It is our bonding time.   “But our closets are a little overfilled,” she adds.   So with practices, games, travel, and tryouts filling her days, a scholarship to the University of Virginia on the horizon, and goals of succeeding in college, playing professionally (either in the United States or Europe), plus her drive to go as far as she can with Team USA, you might say Serepca’s cup is overflowing. Her coach disagrees.   “From the first day she set foot on campus as a freshman and I saw how she blended seamlessly with our team, which was full of juniors, it was pretty obvious she fit right in with her physical attributes, skill, maturity and confidence,” recalls Coach Smith. “Her attitude, her presence, it’s hard to put it all into words. There is not that level of arrogance you’d think would appear. Instead there is a level of confidence around her teammates which I think is remarkable. She really is someone special.”
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