A member of the Canadian program since she was 14, Ashley Lawrence’s impressive resume will grow in a few weeks. She’ll be able to add the U-20 Women’s World Cup to the list of major international tournaments she’s participated in. The midfielder has already suited up in two U-17 Women’s World Cups, the first in 2010 and then 2012, and she won silver at the 2012 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship.
She’s also seen action with the senior squad, earning her first cap in early 2013 at the Yongchuan Cup. Just a month ago, she played on home soil for the first time, when she was subbed on during Canada’s friendly versus Germany at Vancouver’s BC Place in the 71st minute.
Ashley’s coming off a fantastic freshmen season at West Virginia University. She finished fourth on the team in points and suited up in all of the squad’s 23 matches. Her strong play saw her named to the NSCAA/Continental Tire All-Central Region First Team, All-Big 12 First Team, All-Big 12 Newcomer Team, Academic All-Big 12 Newcomer Team and Big 12 All-Tournament Team. One of her best performances of the year came during the Big 12 Soccer Championship final, where she netted the Mountaineers’ game-winning goal.
The Road to Canada 2014 series continues with midfielder Ashley Lawrence:
You now have more than half a dozen caps with the senior team. How has that prepared you for this summer?
I think it’s been a great help for me personally. There are some other players at U-20 camp who also have senior experience and with that, it’s great to add my leadership, as well as leadership from those players onto this team. I feel like I’ve learned so much while I’m in that environment, where I’m with world-class players that I look up to myself. I take those attributes and the knowledge that they have from their experiences, then I bring it onto this team. It’s so great to be a leader here.
You mention leadership and that’s certainly key when you’re part of a national program. Do you find people gravitating toward you because of your international experience?
I definitely do. I think that it’s a reciprocal type of relationship because players come to me for questions and vice versa. It’s very beneficial to be able to add anything that I can from a leadership perspective, but also grasping any knowledge from the players that I have here too.
If someone said to you, “I want to play like Ashley Lawrence”, how would you describe your play on the pitch?
I’m not a typical centre midfielder. Essentially, I’m a defender who works hard box to box. I get into hard tackles and I don’t give up. People look to me to add that momentum on the field. Effectively, I always want to be on the ball. I’m always around the ball, even if I’m that supporting player. I add to the attack as well. It might not necessarily be to score, but I’m looking to setup other players to score. That’s the best feeling in the world to me personally, to set up other players.
Is there a player out there you look up to or try to replicate?
There are so many world-class midfielders, but just working alongside Diana Matheson is unbelievable. She’s one of my top role models. Just being in that environment and being able to train with her, I look up to her so much. She’s where I want to be in the future. I feel like she has amazing composure on the ball. She reminds me a lot of Andres Iniesta, who is also one of my role models. They are similar in their attributes and that’s where I want to get.
Looking ahead in your soccer career, where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself continuing on with the national team and I see myself as playing a vital role on that squad. That’s where I’m working towards. Right now, I’m just being patient. I’m learning from everyone that I can. I really want to be a key contributor on that team.
Tell us a little bit about the style of play head coach Andrew Olivieri is trying to implement with the U-20s.
I know Andrew has the mindset of possession-oriented soccer and I love that. I feel this team has all of the attributes that compliment his vision. Things have been going really well in that regard. Everything has been falling together so far and I’m looking forward to more progression in the future.
Your particular U-20 group is in a unique position where you get to play a major tournament in your home country. What does that mean to you, as someone who was born in Toronto, where Canada’s first match is going to be played?
Honestly, it’s a blessing and almost a curse. The opportunity is one most people don’t have, to play a World Cup in their own country, which is an honour. I’m so excited to be able to play in front of my friends and family. I know a lot of people are going to come out and watch. At the same time, having a World Cup in your own country brings a lot of pressure to perform. I think it’s a good pressure though. I know we’re going to put on a good show for everyone. The work that we’re putting in now is what’s going to get us there. I know I’m really excited and looking forward to it.
If you think back to 2002, Canada’s U-19 team was made up of players like Christine Sinclair, Erin McLeod and Diana Matheson, whom you said you admire. Have you thought about the history the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup will create across the country?
I’ve thought about it and it’s just so crazy because as you mentioned, those players were part of that U-19 team and tournament. It’s almost like I’m looking into my future, where I’m playing alongside a lot players I’ve been with since I was younger. As time progresses, we are the future coming up. When I was younger, I was looking up to those players you mentioned, and it’s pretty unbelievable to think that players will be looking up to me. I’m looking forward to it though. I’m just so excited. I’m really hoping that we put on a show for all those little girls who are looking up to us, and who will eventually be in our position.
At the end of the tournament, what is the number one goal for you?
There are a lot of things that I’m looking forward to. By the end, I definitely want positive results. I know all of the hard work that we put in is going to have to pay off. I’m definitely going to want to play all six games. Whether that’s to make it to the final or to play for third place, I know we have the ability and talent to make it all the way to the end. We need to play to succeed. For me personally, I just want to make a mark on the field. I want to leave that tournament knowing that I gave it my all and that I did it for my team and for my country.
Best of luck to Ashley as she prepares for another milestone in her soccer career.
About the author:
Sandra Prusina is a journalist and broadcaster based out of Calgary, Canada. She has covered women’s soccer since 2010. She’s also a segment reporter for Olympic Broadcast Services, traveling to Vancouver, London and Sochi to work for the host broadcaster.