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Ashley McGuire, surrounded by family and Paris coaches, signed her letter of intent to play soccer for the Unviersity of Arkansas Pine Bluff on Wednesday.

For the last four years, Ashley McGuire has been nothing short of sensational for the Paris Ladycats on the soccer field. Now, she’ll have the opportunity to continue playing the sport at the collegiate level, after recently signing with the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff.

McGuire began playing soccer at the age of eight, and initially, the only reason she decided to give the sport a chance was to hang out with friends who were also playing the sport.

However, it didn’t take long for McGuire to realize that not only did she love the sport, but that she also had quite the knack for it.

“I could tell that I loved it probably during that very first practice,” McGuire said. “I liked the feeling of being in control, scoring goals. It was a lot of fun.”

A turning point in McGuire’s athletic career came in her freshman year of high school, when she began playing club ball with a team based out of the Dallas Metroplex. Suddenly playing against much tougher competition, she knew she would have to step her own game up.

And step it up she did.

“It was a great experience,” McGuire said. “It’s a much faster pace and so you learn about how to play the game at a higher level. It was a little different, but it didn’t really take long to adapt to it.”

Playing club ball allowed McGuire to play on some of the biggest stages of amateur soccer in the state and against some of the brightest talent, and she said one of her favorite experiences was playing in the Dallas Cup last year.

“I didn’t play that much in the game, but when I did go in, I played good,” she said.

When she joined the Paris Ladycats, it didn’t take long for her to make a definite impact on the team.

“She’s a terrific scorer with speed and the ability to put the ball away, and yet she’s completely unselfish with the ball,” Paris head coach Haley Jetton said. “She’s a total team leader; she only wants what’s best for the team. She pushes everybody to be better.”

McGuire was key in helping turn the Paris Ladycats into a district power over the last few years, and looking back at her last three seasons as a Ladycat, she played a crucial role in a number of big wins.

“One of my favorite memories is definitely during my freshman year, when we went four rounds deep in the playoffs,” McGuire said. “Another one of my favorite memories was during my sophomore year that got cut short because of Covid. But in our last game, we beat Pleasant Grove, and they’re one of our biggest rivals along with North Lamar.”

“She is so reliable, I don’t think Ashley McGuire has ever had a game where she is not on,” Jetton said. “She is always on. That’s what makes her who she is, because you can always count on Ashley McGuire.”

When it came time to decide where to pursue her athletic career, McGuire said Arkansas Pine Bluff wasn’t the only school interested in her talents.However, after staying in contact with the team’s coaching staff, she knew that’s where she wanted to go. After watching her play a game with her club team, the school offered her a scholarship, and she readily accepted.

“It’s funny, because the game that they came to see, I actually got hurt and didn’t play in the second half, but they had come in the first half and saw me,” she said. “Another school that I was talking to came, but they didn’t come until the second half.”

Looking back at her time with Paris, McGuire is going to miss the relationships and bonds she’s formed with her teammates. But she also said she’s looking forward to Arkansas Pine Bluff, where she’ll get the opportunity to play for an energetic and respected coaching staff on a team on the rise. And also important to her was the fact that Pine Bluff is a HBCU, she added.

“I’m looking forward to going somewhere where there’ll be other people who look like me around,” she said.

“I just couldn’t be prouder of her, and I know the team couldn’t be prouder of her,” Jetton said. “I’m just so thankful that we get to see her live out her dream and play DI, because so many don’t get the opportunity. And she deserves it.”

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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