Ashley Blanks is a player who should come to mind when people think about the Lehigh women’s soccer team. She has played a significant role on the team as one of its top goalkeepers over the past three years, and she is determined to finish her career strong as her final season with the Lady Hawks begins.
The 5’4″ senior from North Andover, Mass., has had much success over the years at Lehigh. From multiple Patriot League honors to going down in the record books with the lowest goals against averages for both 2011 and 2013, Blanks is arguably one of the most experienced and talented players on her team.
Before coming to play for Lehigh, Blanks was unsure of exactly what she wanted in a college. However, that changed when she discovered Lehigh late into her junior year of high school, and she realized that she had an opportunity to become a scholar-athlete and get involved with the community, as well. “During the recruiting process, I mainly focused on small Division III schools in the Northeast,” she said. “I didn’t think I wanted to go to a Division I school because I wanted to have a balanced college career.”
Blanks has accomplished many of her college goals since she committed to Lehigh. Blanks is a double major in both biology and Spanish, and she currently holds a 3.32 GPA. In terms of her involvement with the community, Blanks is the co-captain of the Student-Athlete Council. She is also involved with the Student-Athletes Leading Social Change program and was an admissions tour guide for three years. She has also been through every level of the athletics leadership academy.
Athletically, she has been a regular starter since she arrived at Lehigh. Her career started strong as a first-year, as she accumulated 69 saves and a goals against average of 1.14. Blanks had a tougher time during her sophomore year, as she finished the season with only 29 saves.
“I wasn’t performing on the soccer field, and it was a downward spiral that ended with me playing my last game halfway through the season,” she said. “I lost confidence in my ability, and I destroyed myself mentally.”
Despite her misfortunes, Blanks turned those hardships into fuel during her junior year. She put up tremendous numbers that season, which included a 1.01 goals against average (the fifth-best in school history), a save percentage of .886 and 58 total saves.
As a senior, Blanks has been chosen as a captain for her squad. She said that being a leader for the team is enjoyable, as well as challenging. “As a leader, there are higher expectations, and not only do I have to hold myself accountable for meeting standards, (but) I also have to make sure my fellow teammates are meeting them, as well,” she said. “I find myself paying more attention to the players around me and what they are up to.”
Her leadership has impacted the team a great deal, according to her teammates.
Junior Madi Morgan believes Blanks’s role as a vocal leader will substantially help the team this season. “Ashley is one of the most impactful leaders on our team,” Morgan said. “She gets ecstatic when other players do something well, and I feel that this is what makes Ashley so special. She is always putting the team first and is genuine about it.”
Blanks said she believes that this is the strongest and closest team that she has been on at Lehigh. Her goal for the team is to make it to the Patriot League tournament and win. So far, the team has been impressive, and the odds are looking pretty good for the Lady Hawks. They are 3-2-1 and recorded a 1-0 victory over American on Sept. 20, putting them at 1-0 in the Patriot League.
Blanks has already continued her success on the field with 14 saves through the first six games, giving her a career total of 170 saves. She also had her seventh career shutout in the season’a first game against Binghamton.
Blanks said that over the years, Lehigh has helped her develop into a better version of herself, and she realizes that every day through her athletics, academics and daily interactions. “Playing soccer has challenged me in so many ways,” she said. “I am a much stronger player than I was when I first got here both physically and mentally, and the game has slowed down for me significantly compared to when I was a young freshman.”
Blanks looks forward to creating more memories both on and off of the field in her final year at Lehigh, and she is well on her way to doing just that.