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Soccer: Ragin' Cajuns Eight For Eight: Ashleigh Cade

With eight home matches and eight seniors on the 2017 squad, RaginCajuns.com will be profiling each senior heading into home weekends.  This weekend senior Ashleigh Cade will be featured.

LAFAYETTE – Versatility is key for any athlete to be successful, the ability to play anywhere on the field only means that the team will be that much better.  Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns senior forward Ashleigh Cade is the perfect example of versatility.
Since coming to the Cajuns she's played midfielder, both attacking and wide, defender and now she sits in her true role as a forward.  But no matter where she's sat on the pitch, Cade has always produced and been there for her teammates.
"I've embraced the idea of playing wherever I'm needed," said Cade.  "And ever since I've gotten to Louisiana I've kept an open mind."
Cade's open mind is exactly what first brought her to Louisiana all the way from Bonney Lake, Washington.  "I really wanted a change of scenery," said Cade.
"I knew that when I went to college it wasn't going to be near my home in Washington.  And I just wanted to do something on my own and get out to see more of the country."
Although her mother might not have wanted her to be so far away, "my mom didn't want me to go so far from home, saying that she wouldn't see her baby girl as much."  Cade made the decision to head down south nevertheless.
It didn't take long for her to fall in love with the Cajun way of life when making her first visit to the region.
"We started the drive from New Orleans and as we headed east towards Lafayette I just fell in love with everything that was around here," said Cade.  "Everyone is so welcoming and sweet down here and it just felt like home right away.  So, I told my mom that this was my home away from home which, when she heard that, made her happy."
A self-proclaimed soccer junkie, Cade started playing the beautiful game at an early age mainly because her older brothers played the game, "I was that annoying little sister that wanted to do everything that they did."
From there it was a wrap, and Cade began her journey to become a soccer player.  She was slatted as a forward early on and it's a position that she's enjoys playing the most.  But throughout it all she continued to develop her versatility ready to play wherever she was needed.
Her time in Louisiana has been productive to say the least and last season, while playing the role of defender, she finished with 11 assists which was the fifth most in the country at seasons end. 
But the road to her senior year wasn't a smooth one, and Cade suffered a personal tragedy that made her fall in love with the game and her teammates that much more.
Two spring seasons ago, in 2016, her father who had been fighting colon rectal cancer, passed away and Cade made the trip home to see her dad one last time with a heavy heart.
"My mom had called me and she told me that we're bringing you home to see your dad," said Cade.  "Those five or six days that I spent with him were some of the best times I've had with him.  Everything I've done since then is for my dad, because I know that he's watching."
When she returned to Lafayette she wasn't alone.  Her teammates and the Louisiana community welcomed her with open arms.  They made sure that she kept her head up and of course the beautiful game was there.
"Two years ago, she pulled one of the most selfless acts as an athlete I've ever seen," said head coach Scot Wieland.  "After the passing of her father, she made it back here rather quickly.  You would've never known what happened because she came out and did her job and that says everything you need to know about her."
"I knew that when I got back here, that I was coming back to a family," said Cade.  "We always push each other to be the best that we can be and we're always there for each with someone to lean on no matter what happens."
Cade got through the emotional time with the help of her teammates and the game that she loves so much.
"For me soccer is an escape, when I'm out there all I think about is soccer.  I don't care if I mess up because I know I can get the next one," said Cade.
That mentality of just losing herself in the game has helped her become the versatile player she is.  Coach Wieland has asked her to play just about everywhere on the pitch, and she's done it without a hesitation.
"She's an amazing kid," said Wieland.  "You know what you're getting when you put her on the field.  And we've put her just about everywhere.  It sends a message to the team that it's never about one person it's about what can you do for the team."
Beyond her selfless ability to play wherever she's asked, Cade also brings another weapon to the pitch, her skill to perform the long throw-in.
Dubbed the 'Cade Special', her throw-in has become a weapon teams have begun coaching around, and she has a special talent of placing the ball in the box just about anywhere she wants. 
That skill didn't happen overnight, but it was something that her older brothers helped her with, even if it wasn't on purpose.
"My brother Cody, who's four years older than me, has a really long throw as well," said Cade.  "When we were growing up we would go outside and I'd stand on the edge of one lawn and my brother would be on the other.
"It had to about a good 20 to 30 yards out.  And we'd stand there and throw it back and forth and mine never went as far as his.  But I kept working on it and I don't think I ever did anything to make it go any further, but it's something that just developed over time."
That weapon lead directly to an assist this past weekend on Sept. 24 against Georgia Southern, when her throw-in went straight into the box which after deflecting off two Cajuns ended up a goal for Louisiana.
But she wasn't done there, shortly after that she scored not once but twice for her first career brace and Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week.  Not so bad for a Washingtonian in Cajun country.
For the past three plus seasons Cade has been the versatile player the Cajuns have needed and this season she's leading the charge for a Cajuns team that looks to make noise in the conference for the remainder of the season.
"If play 90 minutes in every game," said Cade.  "We'll set a tone for the rest of the season that we're something to mess with in conference."