But the spotlight was shining on him Saturday night, as the UPEI Panthers centreback was named the university’s male athlete of the year.
While honoured by the award, he said, it is not why he plays the game. “Awards aren’t for me,” Ashlee said after the ceremony. “I like to lead with how I play. I don't need recognition.” One award that will always have a special place in his heart is the bronze medal he helped the Panthers win when they hosted the nationals in 2014. “That was the one that meant everything,” Ashlee said. “Just to be able to share that with all those players.”
Head coach Lewis Page said Saturday’s recognition is a credit to Ashlee, who has never sought individual success. Ashlee was named a first-team Atlantic University Sport (AUS) all-star this season.
“He’s always putting the team first and he’s one of those guys that flies under the radar,” Page said. “To see him finally get recognize for his contribution to the team, his contribution to the program over five years, is great.”
Ashlee played alongside Cole MacMillan for the majority of his career. They formed the backbone of Panthers back-line that was integral to their success. Ashlee’s name will be beside his former teammates forever, as MacMillan was a co-winner of the award the past two seasons.
“When you look down at that award, you see all those names,” Ashlee said. “All those athletes are amazing. Just to be considered amongst them, it’s really spectacular. It’s quite special.”
Ashlee started 49 of his 58 AUS career games. He scored six times, including three game-winning goals, but did his best work without the ball.
“The first two steps are in his head. He’s a really smart player, he doesn't get himself into bad positions,” said Page, noting Ashlee is tough to play against. “Don't be surprised by his quiet demeanour, he’s going to go in there and hammer guys.”
Ashlee learned from MacMillan and has passed the baton to centreback Mark Smith, who will help groom the next generation of Panther defenders. It is part of an informal mentorship program that has long been vital to the team’s success. “We try to instill the kind of qualities we have as older athletes to those younger players who come into the program,” Ashlee said. “I can tell Smitty is going to be an amazing player. It was great playing with him and I’m really excited for what he has to bring the next few years.”
Need to know
Here’s a little more information about Mark Ashlee, the UPEI Panthers male athlete of the year:
Who – A fifth-year member of the Panthers soccer team, who plays centre back.
Age, hometown – Ashlee is a 22-year-old Victoria, B.C., native.
How he ended up in P.E.I. – Head coach Lewis Page visited Victoria to watch Ashlee play.
Education – Ashlee will graduate with a psychology degree (honours) this spring. He is considering furthering his education.
Mark Ashlee said: “I was pretty honoured because I thought any athlete could be up there for that award. There’s some great athletes out there and I think they deserved it just as much as me.”
Did you know? Ashlee’s brother, Ryan, played for St. FX from 2011-12 to 2013-14.
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