As a former Section II player of the year, Ashleigh Barone could have received a free ride to almost any major college soccer program in the country.
Instead, she chose little-known — at least in the soccer world — Siena College, a place that treated her like family.
Comfortable both in her surroundings and in her quiet leadership role, the 5-foot-6 junior forward from Shenendehowa is one of the major reasons why the upstart Saints are the only undefeated and untied Division I team in the country, at 10-0.
“It’s definitely awesome to get so much recognition,” said Barone. “We’ve had some success in the past, but nothing like this. We’re playing harder teams this season, and people are starting to take notice.”
Men’s and women’s basketball, men’s lacrosse, baseball and volleyball have each brought regional and sometimes even national attention to the Loudonville campus, but this is the first time that the women’s soccer program has received such publicity. The Saints have been ranked among the top 35 teams in the country for several weeks.
And Barone is one of the reasons why.
“She’s an outstanding player in every aspect,” said Siena head coach Steve Karbowski, whose club is 2-0 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play. “She has good speed, is physically very strong and is extremely athletic. She obviously has a knack for scoring, but she is also a team player. She sets players up and holds possessions for us. She is a very complete player.”
Karbowski said Barone made an immediate impact for the Saints when she first arrived on campus.
“She scored 15 goals for us as a freshman,” he said. “At first, she was sneaking up on everybody, but I told her after that first year that she would be a marked player on our team. I told her that she must be able to play physically and to take the pounding she would receive from other teams’ top defenders. She’s quiet and humble, and goes about her business.”
Barone earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rookie of the year honors and was a first-team All-MAAC selection that first season. She was also ranked among the nation’s top 15 scorers at 1.84 points per game.
Last year, she was a second-team All-MAAC selection and was tied for the team lead in goals (nine) and points (22).
So far this season, she has five goals and four assists for a team-high 14 points. She is also second in shots on goal with 24.
“I think my strong suit is that I’m a hard worker,” said Barone. “I always try hard to get back on the ball, and I always go hard for the entire game. I also try to be a leader to the younger players, although I’m definitely not a yeller. When I say something out on the field, it shocks everybody, because I don’t usually express myself that way.”
Barone was a five-year letterwinner at Shenendehowa, where she helped the Plainsmen win a Suburban Council championship. She was selected to the NSCAA All-East regional team in 2003, 2004 and 2005, and led Shen to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship in 2004.
Although she was highly recruited by numerous soccer powers, she decided to stay close to home.
“First of all, I love the location,” she said. “I wanted to be close to my family. Both sets of grandparents, my aunts and my uncles live here, and they all come to the games. I also love the atmosphere here. When I was a little younger, I thought about maybe going to school in California, but once I got older, I knew I couldn’t live that far away. I considered St. Bonaventure, too, but I ultimately decided to come to Siena. I really loved the campus and my coaches.”
Karbowski said that he’s not surprised that local players like Barone, fellow Shenendehowa standouts Jenna Placke and Sara Mikula, and Caitlin Cahalan of Shaker have played prominent roles in Siena’s great start.
“Having several local players is a key to our success,” he said. “We also have a great following locally. Players like Ashleigh, Caitlin and Jenna bring a lot of friends and family with them to our games.”
Barone believes Siena’s family atmosphere keeps the team together.
“I think it’s our team chemistry that’s special. All of the players, especially the incoming freshmen, have bonded with each other. I don’t think remaining undefeated is necessarily a realistic goal, but I think getting to the MAAC championship game would be my personal goal for this team. I want to get there at least once before I graduate.”
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Categories: College Sports