River junior Ashley Rucker had scored in nine straight games
before Monday’s 9-0 win over Lutheran West. Her goal scoring
ability has helped the Lady Pirates to a 8-1-1 record. (Photo
by Larry Bennet)
streak has River flowing
Rucker has put finishing
touch to work for River
By Zachary Dzurick
Published Sept 21, 2005
here for an archive of West Life Sports Editor Zachary
Dzurick's "Red Right 88" weekly columns.
was held without a goal on Monday for the first time in ten games.
So why is
she smilling? Because her team defeated Lutheran West 9-0.
win, Rocky River improved to 8-1-1. The Lady Pirates have now outscored
their opponents 42 to 8.
first game of the season, River outshot Berea 30 to 7, but had to
settle for a 0-0 tie. They just could not finish. That has obviously
changed and a big reason is the improved play of Ashley Rucker.
forward had scored in nine straight games including a hat trick
last week against St. Joseph where she scored on a header and two
breakaway goals. She has 14 goals on the season.
limited action as a freshman on a very veteran club. Last season,
she was second on the team with eight goals. Head coach Brian Salco
was hopeful Rucker would elevate her game this season.
we saw glimmer of hope last season,” Salco said. “She was hurt and
out for four games last year so she didn’t have the consistency
she has now. Now she is a finisher. She sees opportunities and takes
advantage of them. Last year she was a right time in the right place
kind of player and she got it done. This year, she is just making
it happen. Her involvement in the off season and her dedication
to the sport has just really allowed her to blossom. She is playing
her opponents differently and her teammates are playing her differently.
They are giving her better balls to play as it is a total team effort.”
a little stunned by her success. She believes that she is just the
recipient of a very talented team around her.
helps me so much,” Rucker said. “Basically I stand around and get
a run because of my team’s beautiful balls. They are amazing. It
is so much more them than me. The balls are just in stride. I would
be nothing without my team.”
his midfield in particular have helped Rucker.
our middle a lot,” Salco said. “Brie Patterson and Meredith Gourash
has been doing a fantastic job getting balls through and letting
Ashley use her speed to finish. Her fellow forwards Caitlin Burke
and Claire Berry has helped to bring the defense and play through
she still get nervous in one on one against goalies. So she has
spent a lot of time working on the skill.
one on ones with goalies,” she said. “I did a lot of premier work
this summer. I tried to work on my touches and my foot skills. Normally
my style was kick and run. I wanted to focus more on foot skills.
Premier helped a lot.”
in the season, Rucker was misfiring on some opportunities. She said
Coach Salco and his assistant Michelle Ponziano spent extra time
to help her.
so amazing,” Rucker said. “One game I missed so many one-on-ones,
and he had somewhere to go, but he stayed after. Coach and Michelle
worked with me and helped me so much.”
has been a flurry of a goals. While Rucker credits her team for
her success, the direct result of her ability to finish has been
a rise in the confidence and play of her teammates.
she makes the rest of our team better,“ Salco said. “She has come
through huge this season. The girls see her in that role now. She
is clutch. She has done it almost every game. It is big because
it helps our confidence. We used to be a second half team and it
is tough to get down and try to come back. But you get up one goal
in the first five or ten minutes like we have been doing and it
makes a huge difference. You can see the whole team momentum jump
start and carry us through.”
Debra Leitch said the team has complete confidence in Rucker’s ability
gets close with a one-on-one with a goalie she finishes,” Leitch
said. “She holds the ball until the end. We are happy with all of
our forwards but even more so that Ashley is scoring. We couldn't
be where we are without her.”
also runs track and is a member of key club. She said she loves
being around little kids.
“I am surrounded
by little kids in my neighborhood,” Rucker said. “I was a pre-school
counselor over the summer. I love kids especially teaching them
how to play soccer.
Only a junior,
Rucker has plenty of options for a future career.
to do something with kids, but I have gone from wanting to be a
interior designer to marine biologist. I also love art and crafts.
I even force my little sister to do them with me so I don’t look
like a weirdo doing them by myself,” she said.