There is a tremendous sense of excitement when you prepare to play in a state championship game.
For Ashland senior Amber Chasse, Saturday’s Class D state championship game against Richmond at Hampden Academy was extra special, even though the Hornets lost 2-1.
Chasse has undergone five knee surgeries. They limited her to two soccer games during her first three seasons, both during her freshmen year.
The first four operations were to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee and the other, on a torn ACL in her left knee, came 14 months ago.
The center midfielder admitted that as much as she loves soccer, her favorite sport, she had reservations about playing this season.
“There was one point when I questioned whether it was worthwhile,” said the 17-year-old Chasse. “My left leg was so much weaker than my right leg.
“But my coach at the Dutch Soccer Academy, Tammy Krul, sent me a video last November of a girl who was still playing college soccer after four surgeries,” said Chasse. “After finding out that other people had gone through just as much as I had and were still able to play at a competitive level, I knew I could do it. I didn’t want to give up on my dream.
“And it was always a dream of mine to play in a state championship game.”
Chasse played a vital role in realizing her dream by scoring 31 goals and assisting on 22 more to help her Hornets overcome the loss of school career scoring leader Mackenzie Carter, who racked up 112 goals in three seasons, 52 in 2016.
Carter missed this season, her senior year, with a torn ACL.
“I’m convinced that if Amber hadn’t returned, we wouldn’t have gone to the state championship game this year. She’s a great athlete,” said Ashland head coach Peter Belskis.
Chasse racked up six goals and six assists in Ashland’s four playoff games. She assisted on first cousin Morgan Doughty’s goal in the state final.
Ashland (16-2) had won two of the previous three state championship games against Richmond, including last year’s game.
Chasse scored at least one goal in 14 of Ashland’s 18 games and had one or more assists in two of the other four. She said playing in the state championship game was special.
“My mom (Ashland assistant coach Holly Carney Chasse) won a state championship and I wanted to do the same thing. I was really happy that our team got to make it there,” said Chasse.
Belskis, who completed his 12th year as the Ashland girls soccer coach after 26 seasons leading the Ashland boys, said he has never seen an athlete overcome the physical and mental hardships Chasse has conquered.
She spent countless hours undergoing treatments at County Physical Therapy in Presque Isle, 23 miles away. It was usually three days a week. She also did her own exercises to strengthen her knees.
“Most kids would have stopped playing after the second surgery. The average person couldn’t have gone through the pain and the heartbreak she went through,” said Belskis.
“She is so courageous and strong-willed. For her to come back and play a full year shows a special kind of dedication. She had to focus for four years to get back,” said Belskis.
Holly Chasse said Amber was able to maintain a positive outlook despite the repeated setbacks.
“She loves the game so much, there’s no way she wasn’t going to play,” said Holly Chasse, who played on Ashland’s 1989 state championship team with her twin sister, Hope, who is Doughty’s mother.
“I was really proud of her,” said Doughty, a senior right wing who had registered 33 goals and 24 assists. “She worked really hard to get healthy again. She went through so much. She was very persistent and it really paid off for her.”
The 5-foot-4 Chasse, who played with a brace on her left knee, limited her physical play over the first half of the season but picked it up in the second half of the season.
The coaches instructed Chasse to work her way back gradually and not contest 50-50 balls that could result in collisions and possibly another injury. With time, she displayed more aggressiveness.
“Toward the end of the season, I was feeling like I did before I got injured. I was really confident that I wasn’t going to get hurt any more,” said Chasse.
Despite the heartbreaking loss in the state game, Chasse still enjoyed a memorable season that she will always cherish.
“It was a really fun year,” said Chasse. “I was very happy with how the season went and how I played. I did better than I thought I would. I hadn’t played in so long. But it all came back to me.
“I was upset we didn’t win but it was great to get to the state game. A lot of kids never get the chance to play in a state game,” said Chasse.
“We could have just given up after losing our scorer (Carter) but everybody stepped up and filled their roles. That’s what we had to do,” she said.
She said all the long hours of physical therapy and the pain involved have been worth it. She is pain-free but said her left leg is still a little weaker than her right.
Chasse will now turn her attention to basketball and softball. She has been able to play two seasons of softball but she has appeared in only one basketball game, as a freshman.
“I love playing basketball so I’m really excited to be able to play,” said Chasse, who hopes to continue her comeback playing soccer in college.
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