Mooney’s Cuba earns nod as Ohio’s top girls soccer player

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Mooney senior Ashley Cuba is headed to the University of Pittsburgh.

Where did the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney Cardinals go when they needed inspiration? They went straight to Cuba. Don’t be alarmed. We’re not talking the country known for its cigars and aging dictator. We’re talking the midfielder known for scoring goals.


Where did the Youngstown Cardinal Mooney Cardinals go when they needed inspiration?

They went straight to Cuba.

Don’t be alarmed. We’re not talking the country known for its cigars and aging dictator. We’re talking the midfielder known for scoring goals.

That is, Ashley Cuba, who was brilliant in 2008. In fact, she performed so well that Ohio High Magazine has named her Ohio Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

The old trophy case is getting crowded. Cuba, who is headed to the University of Pittsburgh on a soccer scholarship, was selected by Associated Press as its Co-Player of the Year and was also chosen by that organization as its Division II Player of the Year. Cuba even garnered ESPN National Player of the Week honors during the course of the season.

So what does she have to say about all this? Did she proudly confirm her belief that she had earned such awards?

Hardly.

“I guess I deserve it,” she said with a distinct lack of conviction. “I didn’t think I would win it.”

If the humble senior had played with such self-doubt, she wouldn’t have scored absurd totals of 82 goals and 51 assists in regular seasons alone in her high school career, which during which she earned first-team All-Ohio honors in each of the last two years and runner-up Division II Player of the Year in 2007.

Cuba led Mooney to its third consecutive regional final in 2008, which it lost to Hathaway Brown, 2-0. Not bad considering she was playing out of position. The Cardinals required her to compete as a midfielder as opposed to forward, the position she plays on other teams, including the Cleveland Whitecaps of the Super-Y/Casa team, which won state titles in 2007 and 2008.

And that’s not an easy transition.

“Midfielders have to be able to see the field more,” she explains. “When you play forward, you’re more an attacker than you are a defender. I actually prefer to play midfielder, but I don’t really care either way, as long as I get to play.”

Well, it’s not like any sane coach would take her out of the lineup.

Cuba has been kicking a soccer ball around since the age of four. That’s when the love affair began that continues to this day. One would be wrong to presume that Cuba has experienced soccer burnout at any point since.

“It does get very hectic,” she admits. “But I love the game so much, I don’t think I could ever let it go, not even for a while.”

The Cardinals benefited greatly from that mindset. Cuba led them to the regional finals in each of the last three seasons, but the team simply couldn’t take the next step into the state tournament.

And that is already proving to be Cuba’s lone soccer-related regret as she prepares to compete at the Division I college level. Her 3.5 grade point average and diligent studying has allowed her to move up her high school graduation date to mid-December, which will give her a greater chance to think about lost opportunities with the Cardinals and new ones with the Panthers.

“I’m very proud that we were able to make it that far, but we had our hearts on getting to state this year,” says Cuba, whose younger sisters Brittany and Danielle have begun their soccer careers at Mooney. “It’s really a shame it couldn’t happen this year, especially since we had 11 seniors.

“I’ve always been a very competitive player, which is one reason I chose Pittsburgh. The level of competition there is very high. Once I get to be the best at any level, I want to work my way back up at a new level of competition. I love the challenge that it provides me.”

And her thoughts on the Ohio High Player of the Year Award?

Typically humble.

“I’m just very grateful to have come as far as I’ve come and I’m grateful for all the awards I’ve won,” she says. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without my teammates and family and coaches.”

As for her sisters, she admits they aren’t quite as passionate about the sport as she is.

“They look up to me in certain aspects of the game and they want to be successful,” she says. “I’ll be there to support them no matter what.”

Cuba plans on studying medicine and nutrition at Pittsburgh with the hope of becoming a nutritionist. And if those she helps in that field become as healthy as her point totals on the soccer field, she’s going to be a heck of a success.

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