Dedication and drive: South Tahoe soccer standout Schouten commits to Cal State Monterey Bay
When it comes to soccer, Ashlee Schouten is committed to perfecting her game. That’s what led to the South Tahoe senior committing to Cal State University, Monterey Bay prior to her senior season, fulfilling a goal of playing the sport she loves at the next level.
“It just shows that all my hard work pays off,” Schouten said. “I’ve been working to play college soccer since I was little and I’m going to keep working hard.”
Schouten, who is known to friends, family and teammates as “Grace,” held a ceremony Jan. 2 at South Tahoe High to celebrate the occasion. The talented midfielder will soon sign her letter of intent to play for the Otters, who compete in Div. II in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
“Any time a player from a small community like Lake Tahoe can take a sport to the next level, it’s impressive,” Vikings head coach Mark Salmon said. “Some kids wait for it to come to them. Grace went after it, and she got it.”
Cal State Monterey Bay initially contacted Schouten two years ago at a tournament in Las Vegas, and was the first college program to reachout. She ultimately chose CSUMB based on its proximity to the ocean, the coaching staff and the strength of its kinesiology program — her desired field of study.
“They told me that I’m going to be a big part of their program next year, and it just makes me want to work harder in the offseason,” Schouten said. “When I get there, I want to make an impact immediately.”
Schouten has a passion for soccer, and that showed even after she made her college choice. During the fall, her high school season at South Tahoe and club season with Sacramento-area Placer United conflicted — but she decided to play for both teams.
“That says something about her personality and her commitment to the high school,” Salmon said. “After investing time with her teammates and coaches, I thought it was great for her to see that through.”
She made that decision despite the fact that it meant a full schedule three to four times per week during the fall. Routinely, Schouten would attend school and Vikings’ practice before driving to two hours each way to club practice — by the time she got back home on those days, it would be close to midnight.
But for Schouten, missing her senior season at South Tahoe was simply not an option. She finished with six goals and three assists in limited action — while managing that tough schedule and an ankle injury that forced her into a walking boot — for a Vikings team that finished runner-up in Div. I-A.
“Even though I was only able to play in a few games, it was better than nothing for me,” Schouten said. “High school soccer is my favorite, especially on our field. Our field is my favorite field I’ve ever played on — it’s my home.”
During her junior season, Schouten totaled 17 goals and eight assists in 15 matches as part of a breakout campaign. She scored twice in the Div. I-A State semifinals and once more in the championship match to help South Tahoe to a second straight state title.
“She’s the one that you’re going to find at the field by herself on an off day putting in the extra time,” Salmon said. “Kids might say that they’re passionate about a sport but it really shows up when they walk the walk — and Grace always has.”
Schouten is one of a handful of South Tahoe players to play at the collegiate level in recent seasons, and she said she is proud to represent the local community along with her club team. Most of all, she is happy to get the chance to fulfill her dream.
“Grace is a very dedicated athlete,” Salmon said. “Not every athlete has that, and it’s that kind of drive that got her to the next level — there’s no doubt there will be continued success for her.”
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