From a District 1-AAA third-place finish and a berth into the PIAA state playoffs, to a university that is coming off its best season since 2006 while earning a Big East playoff position in the process, Owen J. Roberts senior Ashley Kucera should gel into Temple's local-laden roster as she signed her letter of intent to play field hockey for the Owls.
"Ashley is one of the hardest workers and talented players I have ever met,' Owen J. Roberts head coach Clarence Jennelle said. "She is a never-say-die type of player that never quits giving everything she has when she is on the field or off.'
Kucera, daughter of Tina and Jack Kucera, will join former Wildcat standouts Amanda Fuertsch and Taylor Shronk and will also share a roster spot with two other local products — Ali Meszaros (Phoenixville) and Rachel Steinman (Upper Perkiomen). Kucera had been attracting looks from Bucknell and Hofstra, but ultimately selected an up-and-coming Temple squad that was ranked in the top 20 last season for nine consecutive weeks — its first Top 20 ranking in program history. The senior science buff plans on majoring in Kinesiology,
"Amanda and Taylor always talked about how much they liked it,' Kucera said pertaining to her old teammates. "They were really good leaders when they were on my team.
"The staff and players (at Temple) were really nice. After seeing other schools, Temple stood out. I liked the city feel. My parents were supportive the whole way. They were excited to see the whole sports atmosphere at a Division 1 school.'
Kucera graduates from an Owen J. Roberts team that has served as the model for success in the PAC-10 in recent years. Throughout her years playing under Jennelle, the team reached the PAC-10 final twice — winning the title in 2011 with a 2-1 victory over Perkiomen Valley — and won the District 1-AAA title, again in 2011. Kucera claimed Mercury All-Area honors in 2012 — securing a spot on the honorable mention team.
In her senior season, Kucera registered six goals and seven assists, including goals in the team's senior night victory over Perkiomen Valley on Oct. 10 and in the team's 4-0 victory over Phoenixville in the PAC-10 Final Four semifinals.
Her efforts in the midfield helped her secure Mercury All-Area second team honors while the Wildcats finished third in the District 1-AAA playoffs, after big wins over Mount St. Joseph and Conestoga, before falling in the first round of the PIAA-AAA playoffs to District 3's Warwick.
"I would take a team of Ashleys and we would rock the PAC-10 if not the state of Pa.,' Jennelle said. "She listens and learns and does not hold onto frustrations. She let's them go and shows the team that all things are possible with a little talent, a little physical ability and a lot of heart and desire.'
Kucera's efforts at her club team X-Calibur — which won its National Invitation Tournament — and at OJR will blend in nicely with Temple under head coach Amanda Janney.
"After being ranked 17th in the nation at the end of our season and having a great first year in the Big East conference, we are very pleased with our seven recruits who will be joining our team,' Janney said in a Temple press release. "My assistant coaches, Kelly (Driscoll) and Danica (Deckard), and I, have searched for players who fit well with our team's culture of hard work and dedication to the team.'
Kucera has also dabbled in track and field and softball during her time at OJR, earning a varsity letter in both sports while participating in the 4x100 at the Penn Relays.
"For track, it's mental. You have to mentally push yourself. It helped me with hockey. When you get tired you still have to play the mental aspect of the game. You can't worry about how tired you are.'
However, Kucera's love for field hockey has stood around — something that she feels, with the help of teammates past and present, could only blossom in the years ahead.
"My teammates are what got me into the sport. They were so supportive. They made it enjoyable for me and encouraged me to keep playing and get better. That atmosphere they built made me enjoy it. I felt that same feel when I went to Temple. Everyone there was supportive.'
Follow Sam Stewart on Twitter @Samuel_Stewart7