At the very young age of 3, Christian Figueroa was introduced to the game of soccer. The game so intrigued him, that now some 14 years later he’s still playing it with a passion for the Ashland High School.
“It was one of those things that my father loved and got me involved in watching it with him,” the Ashland stopper said. “That’s all it took, and from there I’ve been involved in soccer since.”
Figueroa started playing defense right from the get-go. He not only enjoyed the position, but he took his play to heart, looking to prevent the opposition’s top scorers from making an impact on the game. His coach loves that enthusiasm.
“Christian is a very smart and passionate about the game, he gives 100 percent all of the time,” first year Ashland Coach Andre Mikhael said. “As our stopper, everything goes through him defensively, and although he’s kept us in a majority of our games due to his ability, sometimes he thinks too hard.”
Although primarily a defender, Mikhael has had to move Figueroa around due to a rash of injuries this fall.
“He’s a very talented player that can play multiple positions, including goalie on two occasions, where he has allowed only two goals,” the coach said. “By moving him around to other positions to help the team out, we definitely lose something from his original position. That’s nothing against the other players on our team; it’s just a testament to how good Christian is.”
As a four year starter, Figueroa, for the most part, has been on the short side of winning. Ashland was only able to win a couple of games his freshman and sophomore season but turned things around last year, advancing into the Division 2 South Tournament. Once in the tournament, the Clockers defeated Bishop Stang and Apponoquet before falling to Medfield in the quarter finals.
“The first two years, our team wasn’t taking advantage of our play, but things changed last year when we started connecting. A chemistry was formed, and we all improved,” Figueroa said.
In addition to Ashland qualifying for the state tournament, Figueroa’s club team, Abbey Villa Club Soccer out of Hopkinton, which he had played for since the sixth grade, won the 2012 Northeast Region 1 Championship.
According to the Ashland stopper, club soccer is more technical than high school play, especially in moving the ball up field, and is faster when it needs to be. In club soccer, the athletes control the opportunity more, instead of kicking the ball up field and hoping for the best. Playing club soccer has definitely been a plus to Figueroa’s high school career, but he’s also worked hard in the off-season.
“I’ve dedicated a certain amount of hours to get myself ready physically as well as watching a lot of English Premier Soccer on TV, watching the way they distribute the ball and mindful of who’s around them,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can bring that to my game as there is always room for improvement.”
The senior Clocker captain is hoping that having a year under their belts as well as tournament experience will allow Ashland to go deeper in the post season this fall despite playing in the competitive Tri-Valley League (TVL).
“The majority of soccer players in the TVL play on club teams in the off-season,” he said. “Just making the tournament last year was a thrill, but this year we want to go much further.”
Following their tournament run this year, Figueroa will have to decide on where he’s going to attend college next fall, and while his education will come first, he’s hoping to still play soccer.