As Ashley Flateland tried to decide in which corner of the net to put her potentially championship-winning penalty kick, her mind was already made up about her soccer future.
Flateland, who knocked home the winning PK in both the Final Four and Championship matches, will transfer to James Madison University (Va.) next semester.
“I wanted a new challenge,” she said. “I like how it’s a college town. I’ve always wanted to go to a school where everything is based around the school.”
Flateland was charged with the task of marking Division II Player of the Year Katy Tafler of Grand Valley State in the Final Four match. Tafler, who averaged scoring 3.82 goals per game, didn’t get near the net. In the championship match against Franklin Pierce, Flateland held off the award’s runner up, Gabriela Demoner for 110 minutes. Demoner managed only two shots in the match, and had her penalty kick attempt saved by Shannon Aitken.
As Flateland’s PK beat the Ravens’ goal keeper Brittany Ester, the team rushed the field and mobbed the game’s hero.
“Ashley is a great soccer player and friend to the team,” said teammate Shannon Agnew. “We are sad to see her leave, but we just want her to be happy.”
Lucey noted that Flateland will be missed off the field as well as on it, as the team prepares to defend their championship.
“She’s one of those kids that is basically irreplaceable,” he said. “It’s not just her presence on the field, it’s her presence on the training field, and her understanding of the game. She’s really a cut above the rest of the players.”
Brittney Evans echoed Lucey’s sentiments, noting her intangibles.
“We are going to miss Ashley on and off the field,” she said. “She is a great person and player, but we understand why she is leaving and we support her.”
Aside from her defensive achievements, Flateland also scored five goals and added an assist. She appeared in 22 games as a freshman and scored twice with two assists last year.
“She’s been a tremendous student-athlete for the program over the last few years,” said Lucey. “You don’t want to see good people leave and she’s a really good person. I have a lot of respect for her. It hurts.”
Flateland’s departure was influenced from many angles, including former head coach Bobby Johnston, who left UT last spring to take an assistant position at his JMU. Johnston is an alumnus of JMU.
“She was trying to match herself against so-called Division-I athletes as well,” added Lucey,
Lucey also cited academics as another reason for Flateland’s transfer, something she confirmed.
“They have a really good medical program, especially the physicians assistant program,” the biology major said.
Graduating senior Nicole Murphy mentioned the void Flateland’s departure will create.
“The team is definitely going to miss her presence on the field,” said Murphy. “Hopefully they’ll be able to come together. Obviously the team is going to have to find some way to pick up and replace that missing link.”
As he lost one of his best players, Lucey easily summed up his thoughts on her transfer.
“I’m not happy about it,” he said.
Flateland has been released to play next season at JMU. She will transfer for the spring semester and being playing in the fall.
“I’m going to miss it here,” she said. “I love Tampa.”