COLUMBUS – For the second time in two days, a Columbus High athlete signed to spend their college years at Concordia University in Seward.
On Wednesday, it was Juan Leon signing to play football for the Bulldogs. On Thursday, Ashley Thalken signed to play soccer at Concordia.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It’s always been one of my biggest dreams as an athlete. I’m super excited to see where it goes.”
Coming from Columbus, the tight-knit community at Concordia is what led her to the Bulldogs.
“Just how small the school is and how close all of the teammates are,” Thalken said. “It’s kind of like a little family.”
Thalken has been a staple on the Discoverers’ soccer team since her freshman year. As a four-year starter, Thalken has led Columbus back to the level head coach Luis Pulido expects.
Pulido, in his third season as the Columbus head coach, has relied on Thalken to make things happen offensively.
“She’s someone that’s always worked hard. Just seeing her grow in the last few years has been an honor,” Pulido said. “I’m really happy for her.”
In her career, Thalken has 13 goals and 13 assists. As a junior, Thalken scored seven goals and had four assists, tied for the team lead in both categories and giving her a team-high 18 points, while leading the Discoverers to their best season since 2013 and a berth in the state tournament. After the season, Thalken was named all-state honorable mention.
That’s the benchmark she’s set for herself in her senior season.
“I want to beat where we were in previous years,” Thalken said. “I want to lead my team to state.”
That comment is an insight into her competitiveness, something that Concordia head coach Greg Henson noticed every time he watched her, whether it was with Columbus or her club team, Nebraska Select. That, and her offensive prowess.
“Every time we saw her, she had energy on the field and a competitive drive and goal-scoring ability,” Henson said. “Every school out there is looking for natural goal scorers.”
Thalken, who is leaning toward majoring in business, has the ability to play anywhere on the soccer field. Last season, she rotated between midfielder and attacker, a role Henson expects her to continue in his program. But he’s taking a patient approach before deciding anything.
“We’ll wait and see when we get her in camp and where she fits in,” Henson added.
Pulido expects her to make an immediate impact.
“I think she’s going to show a lot of what Columbus is about – the work ethic and movement off the ball,” Pulido said. “I’m really excited to watch her play in college.”
Thalken is simply looking forward to the experience.
“I know it’s going to be a little bit tougher, but I’m excited to challenge myself and see how it goes,” she said.