Iscoa commits to continue soccer career at EMU 

After+not+being+able+to+play+her+junior+season+at+HHS%2C+Iscoa+is+excited+to+be+able+to+finish+her+high+school+career+when+her+season+starts+in+April.+

Used with permission by Ashley Iscoa

After not being able to play her junior season at HHS, Iscoa is excited to be able to finish her high school career when her season starts in April.

Maya Waid, Sports Editor in Chief

As a high school athlete, there is always a future goal. Making the varsity team after playing JV, or taking a step further to pursue playing at the collegiate level. For current HHS senior Ashley Iscoa, her dream of continuing her soccer career in college came true after committing to play at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).

Iscoa began her career at the age of four by playing mini-kickers through Shenandoah Valley United (SVU) soccer in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After two years, a former coach of Iscoa recommended that she challenge herself and participate in the travel program that SVU offers. Although Iscoa was grateful for the opportunities that SVU provided her, she knew she had to take further steps to gain the exposure she would need to play in college. 

“When my junior year started, I made the transition to SOCA, which is now known as Skyline Elite for their older elite teams. I made that transition to get a better chance at getting recruited and then playing at a higher level,” Iscoa said. 

In her recruiting process, Iscoa made meaningful contact with programs at the University of Lynchburg, Virginia Wesleyan University and Eastern Nazarene College. Knowing she wanted to pursue a school in the ODAC region, Iscoa utilized many of the well-known recruiting apps to help her gain exposure. However, her final decision to continue at EMU was based upon her in-person visits and feelings for the school. 

“[What finally made my decision was] what it was like visiting in-person. I know that’s kind of hard with some schools but I really thought that if the coach really wants me to come they would help me arrange a time where I can meet in person,” Iscoa said. “Doing a virtual [tour] is not easy [or] fun, you can’t feel the vibe [and] you can’t see the campus. [Another highlight was] that coach Erickson was really interested in my life outside of soccer life.”

So far, Iscoa has made contact with other commits in her class. Using social media, she has gotten to know some of her future teammates. Also made plans to become roommates with her current SOCA teammate at EMU. Although she is excited about what’s to come, she is also nervous about playing at the next level. 

“I think I’m most nervous about injuries and the only thing I’ve been injured with [are] concussions. You hear a lot about how college soccer players tear their ACL or just [suffer from] a really bad injury. So I’m really trying to be big on [injury] prevention because I don’t want to get hurt,” Iscoa said. “I’m also kind of nervous about time management because college is completely different. You don’t have as many classes in one day as high school, [and] it’s going to be a lot of homework.”

Although she is nervous about certain aspects of her college soccer career, Iscoa is excited to take the opportunity of playing at EMU to set an example for other students about the opportunities that the school has to offer.

“I’m excited to impact like the soccer team and the program itself. I think a lot of people, at least Harrisonburg High School, think of EMU as ‘that part of town’ and like no one really likes that place. [They think] that’s where people go for the last option, so I’m really trying to make [EMU] be a place where people will end up going because they like it. I really want to impact the program to the point where it becomes known as a better program,” Iscoa said. 

While both her high school and club soccer teams helped her to gain the needed exposure to get recruited, Iscoa feels that her travel team was the primary reason she was able to get recruited. 

“When I play for HHS it’s more [of] getting to know the other girls in the valley and learning where they play. I played for SVU for a while and then I [found out] most girls played for SOCA. [I figured maybe it’s worth a try to get in contact with some of those girls and ask what it’s been like to travel [and play for SOCA]. Being on the travel teams has definitely helped my current soccer team. I love SVU and it [provided me with] the basics, but this soccer team was the best fit for me,” Iscoa said. “I think I’ve played more than 40 soccer games this season, so the exposure is definitely a different level of being in front of scouts all the time.” 

Although Iscoa is confident in her commitment to EMU, it took her some time to understand that she needed to choose the school that fit her academic and athletic needs rather than the school surrounded with the most excitement. 

“I was definitely scared that I was going to lose my skills. I was [more] nervous about how I had coaches talking to me the spring of my junior year and [I did not get a chance to pursue those opportunities. Since the time has gone by and [I have] seen how hard my travel team has worked to make sure that we still get opportunities to be presented in front of these college coaches has been really good. [I have been able to] focus on not only looking for the school with the biggest hype around it but the school that’s going to help me best grow as a student and an athlete. At the end of the day, EMU was the best thing for me,” Iscoa said.

After losing her junior season to the COVID-19 pandemic, Iscoa had worries going into her travel season that she may not be able to retain some of her skills and her physical stature. 

“I just would do a lot of running and maybe juggle a little bit. If I didn’t run, I would just honestly play in my parking lot. I live in townhouses so we have a big parking lot. In January, JMU students were gone so I worked on things like hitting the curbs of the parking lots and working on [my] touch,” Iscoa said. 

Even though Iscoa lost her junior season, HHS is allowing spring sports to begin by the second week of April. In her last year at HHS, Iscoa plans on emphasizing the importance of a team effort at all times. 

“[My goal is to focus on] emphasizing team effort. I think in past years, it’s always been like a divide between travel players and high school players. I feel like it’s very important to include everyone and [acknowledge] we have different skill sets and [that] we all come from different backgrounds in the soccer world but at the end of the day, we’re on the same team together,” Iscoa said. 

In addition to focusing on a strong team effort, Isoca also has goals for herself to reach in her last high school season and in her years of playing at Eastern Mennonite University.

“This season I want to obviously be district champs again so we make it very clear who we are. For myself, I do want to try to make first team all-district, I’m really reaching for the stars. I would [also] like to be like the Player of the Year. At the collegiate level, [I want to] get those awards for being a good student athlete. I want it to be known to like that I’m not only going here to just play but that [I am] also holding a really strong GPA,” Iscoa said. 

As someone who has just been through the recruiting process, Iscoa’s strongest advice to athletes considering playing in college is to ensure that you are always staying on top of your contact with coaches. 

“[It helps to] really be on top of emailing before your games. I would [aim to be] sending the information out three weeks in advance and then when it gets close to the game make sure to send an update if there is a field change or something like that,” Iscoa said. “[Also] just be really bold and tell coaches [you] really like to talk. The longer the email, they’re probably not gonna read it. If you call them or meet on zoom, I think that shows your character as a person. [You show that] you’re able to talk in person and you’re not scared of that.”

In the future, Iscoa plans on pursuing her major in education and then giving back to the Harrisonburg community by teaching at HHS. 

“I know I specifically want to teach ESL. The ESL program [at EMU] is definitely why I knew I had to go there, because the professor was amazing. He made me want to be in the classroom already and I think that’s important. Just him showing me the curriculum and giving me printed off the sheets of different education concentrations I could do [was helpful]. He’s kind of persuading me to do the dual language program and ESL endorsement. It was really nice to have him talk me through it. [I think] this is what all like seniors need, we all need to be shown that. I’m really excited about that and I know I want to teach HHS eventually,” Iscoa said.

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