On the field, sophomores Ashlee Brehio and Rachel Buckle said they have a connection that allows them to know where the other is at all times.
“I would say our energies on the field bounce on and off of each other really well. Ashlee is a very go, go, go type of player and I like to slow it down and like to see the field more, so we work really well together,” Buckle said. “Especially going forward in the box, I just know that if I'm in the box, I can find Ashlee and she's going to be able to put a goal away.”
According to Buckle, the bond between the soccer duo started last year as freshmen entering the program and have only gotten closer thanks to the long road trips on the bus and team dinners spent together.
“Ashlee’s the type of person who's just going to tell you how it is, and she'll give you a bunch of crap. And she's also just going to be super honest with you. So I would say we mess with each other a lot,” Buckle said. “All the time, it's just joking around with each other. I don't think we ever take each other seriously.”
Buckle and Brehio said they never let anything get in the way of their friendship, especially if it means jeopardizing the game.
“Even if something was wrong off the field, I feel like Rachel and I wouldn't take it onto the field, which I think is super important,” Brehio said.
Brehio is coming off an all-conference second team and all-rookie team performance in her first year at Elon. According to head coach Neil Payne, Brehio excels at scoring. Brehio played in all 16 games last season scoring 6 goals to lead the Phoenix.
“I've got no concerns over Ashlee, her game is improving all the time. She's got an eye for goal, that the key for her is just to get in the right spots at the right time,” Payne said.
Payne said he isn’t looking for Brehio to be the sole leader for the team as she is only a sophomore this upcoming season. He said he is looking for her to lead by example rather than with her words with the 11 new freshmen added to the roster.
“Ashlee leads by example on the field. So you know, there's always a high work rate and practice, players notice that; players feed off that,” Payne said. “She's still a young player, still lots to learn, so we can't put too much pressure on her. But in equal measure, she's gonna have to take on a slightly bigger role this year.”
As for Buckle, Payne said he has seen her grow since coming to the team and said she is already playing a large role. Buckle finished her freshman season tied second on the team for assists with 3.
“She brings a good, solid, steady performance every single game. And she certainly doesn't play like she's a sophomore,” Payne said. “I'm excited for Rachel, not only for this season, but for the next few years that she has left with us. She's been a really good addition to the group.”
Buckle looks to improve even more this season and continue to be able to get assists and help Brehio get good shots. Buckle said she has the confidence in Brehio to be in the right spot when she’s looking to pass to her.
“Moving off the ball is something huge for me this year, and getting into the box and just creating plays moving forward,” Buckle said. “I can trust that Ashlee is going to be where I need her to be to put it where it has to go.”
With the team bringing in so many new freshmen, the two women said they look to help make all of them feel at home by trying to build the same connections with the new girls that they have built between themselves already.
“It was stressful at first thinking like, ‘I need to maintain my role,’ I think also it's just making them feel like a family and getting them involved to the team really fast,” Buckle said. “We have a lot of team dinners during preseason where we all just like to hang out and do things like that.”
Brehio said they need to hit the ground running with the new group of freshmen and get acclimated quickly as the season goes by quickly before playoffs start.
“I feel like to keep the momentum going, you have to be ready to play, and you have to be ready to work with new people,” Brehio said.
The two now look to prepare for a game they both have circled on their calendars: Aug. 31 against University of South Carolina, a team both say is high on their target list this season.
“They're ranked super high. And I think we definitely have a fighting chance against them. I think we can compete with any team if we think we can compete with any team. And I think that's the mindset that we have to have,” Brehio said.