Ashley Maldonado needed some convincing before making her mark as a Fauquier field hockey and lacrosse standout.
Older sister Elizabeth played both sports at FHS, graduating in 2013. So when Ashley was in third grade, her parents put her on a youth lacrosse club.
"I didn't want to, but my dad pushed me out there," said Maldonado. "Because Elizabeth played at Fauquier, and Dad wanted us to follow in her footsteps. I didn't find lacrosse amusing." Maldonado recalled times when she had gone to Elizabeth's games and left bored.
She overcame her early reluctance to become Fauquier Times 2020 Fauquier High Girls Athlete of the Year, and will play field hockey at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg.
She continued for eight more years before the spring's coronavirus outbreak forced the cancellation of her senior campaign. She scored 10 goals, handed out two assists and had 10 ground balls for the year as a junior.
Field hockey did not come into the picture until August of 2016 when Maldonado was preparing to enter the ninth grade. Dad again encouraged her to emulate Elizabeth's career. Her initial hockey season did not go as well as lacrosse had.
"I didn't like field hockey at first. I was awful my freshman year," Maldonado admits, pointing to her unpolished stickwork and not having a true understanding of the game.
"I would have quit," she continued. "But my parents have taught me not to quit and to finish what I had started."
She devoted considerable off-season time to work on her deficiencies. The result was a starting role on the JV as a sophomore defender before being elevated to the varsity late that season.
"Now, I love it. I'm going to play in college," she said of taking her talents to Eastern Mennonite University.
Maldonado gained first-team all-Northwestern District and second-team all-Region D accolades on defense as a Falcon senior. "I was shocked. I had not expected that. I'm grateful and very happy to get those awards," Maldonado said.
The off-season work also led to her becoming a cog in a strong Falcon defense as a junior. She was the lone defensive starter returning last fall, so her role would change significantly. She would need to overcome her low-key demeanor to take charge on the defensive third.
"Since I'm very quiet, I knew I had to speak up and take that role," Maldonado said. "I wasn't good about telling people where to go sometimes because I feel bad about it, but I realized I would let the team down if I didn't.”
The Falcons experienced an unusual down season, yet coach Brooke Settle was thrilled about Maldonado. "I would say out of the entire team, she had the best senior leadership skills," Settle praised, citing Maldonado's positive outlook and continuous contributions.
"Ashley was incredible and never gave up. I unfortunately saw a lot of players giving up at times when I needed them to give that push. Ashley was a comfort for me," Settle said.
Settle credited Maldonado for her crucial ability to fill in behind the goalkeeper, who had left the goal line to meet a threat. "She had several defensive saves on balls that would have been goals. She was a powerhouse."
Maldonado chose Eastern Mennonite in September following a quick romance. The school expressed interest upon receiving a highlight tape from Robert Maldonado, her father. An overnight recruiting visit two weeks later sealed the deal. The school projects her as a defender.
Maldonado will major in biology at the Division III Old Dominion Athletic Conference school. She hopes to pursue a graduate degree in zoology to enable her to work with pandas at a zoo.