White House invite for Melton footballer Ashleigh Plumptre

Ashleigh tops the fitness charts with the USC's women's soccer team EMN-171219-173419002
Ashleigh tops the fitness charts with the USC's women's soccer team EMN-171219-173419002
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Melton-born footballer Ashleigh Plumptre will be an honoured guest at the White House next month after helping her university reach the pinnacle of US college sport.

The 19-year-old and her team-mates at the University of Southern California have been invited to the home of the American president in recognition of their 2016 NCAA National Championship triumph.

Celebrating her winning goal in the 1-0 victory over the University of Berkeley this season EMN-171219-173441002

Celebrating her winning goal in the 1-0 victory over the University of Berkeley this season EMN-171219-173441002

News of the Washington trip came through last Thursday while back in the UK for Christmas holidays, and Ashleigh believes she is the first English athlete to receive such an invite.

The former St Francis School pupil jets back to the States on January 5 and exactly a week later will head for Washington.

She said: “A few of my team-mates came to visit London, and while we were in Harrods, all of a sudden one of my friends said ‘Ash we’ve just been invited to the White House’.

“I thought she was joking, but looked at the email and she was right; it was so crazy.

Ashleigh becomes only the second Englishwoman to lift the NCAA National Championship trophy EMN-171219-173452002

Ashleigh becomes only the second Englishwoman to lift the NCAA National Championship trophy EMN-171219-173452002

“We don’t know anything more about it yet – we were wondering if we will meet Donald Trump.”

The junior international, who is halfway through a three-year scholarship in Los Angeles, became only the second English women’s footballer to win the title last December as USC beat West Virginia 3-1 in the final.

It was only the second time the university had been crowned national women’s soccer champions.

“I don’t think anyone was expecting us to win the final,” she added.

Ashleigh celebrates during her team's run to the NCAA final EMN-171219-173430002

Ashleigh celebrates during her team's run to the NCAA final EMN-171219-173430002

“There was a poll before the match and 81 per cent voted for West Virginia, and 19 per cent for us.

“The match went so fast. It felt like they were attacking us for most of the match, but we scored on the counter-attack.

“I was so in the moment during the match so I didn’t really think about winning, but then came the countdown and I suddenly realised we were going to be champions.”

The versatile midfielder played a prominent part in the title-winning campaign, playing on both flanks, but this season she has been employed in a central role, both as an attacking and holding midfielder.

Ashleigh was Melton Times Junior Sportswoman of the Year 10 years ago in 2007 EMN-171219-174100002

Ashleigh was Melton Times Junior Sportswoman of the Year 10 years ago in 2007 EMN-171219-174100002

She scored a couple of winning goals this season as the Trojans looked to defend their title.

But after finishing third in the league, their defence came to an unlucky end in the third round of the knockout stages.

Despite dominating the tie, and hitting the woodwork several times, they conceded an equaliser with 17 seconds left and were then beaten on penalties.

Yet despite the disappointment, the English footballer is still enjoying the new challenge and believes the different footballing culture is helping develop her game.

“I play differently because of how they play over there,” she explained.

“It’s definitely more athletic, but it’s also much more technical than people over here think it is.

“We get told off in training if we pass to the wrong foot of a team-mate.

“I am stronger physically now because of all the training regime. We train from 7 to 9 and then cycle to the gym for strength and conditioning.

“If you’re on the ball every day then you’re going to get better.”

Ashleigh started her career with Asfordby Amateurs and after shooting to prominence as a prolific goalscorer was snapped up by Leicester City.

Moves to leading English women’s sides Birmingham City and Notts County followed, including a Women’s FA Cup final appearance at Wembley with the Lady Pies.

She has also featured regularly throughout the England age group sides and was called up to the national under 20s squad this month for friendlies with the USA, Brazil and Finland in the build-up to next year’s Under 20s Women’s World Cup.

But she decided to put her education first and decided exams must take priority over the Florida fixtures.

“It was a shame I had to miss the call-up because it would’ve been interesting to see where I am now compared with the English-based girls,” she added.

And despite the carrot of a promising future in football, Ashleigh insists her future career lies ultimately away from the football pitch.

She aims to become a doctor, and when her time in California is over hopes to do a master’s degree at the University of Nottingham before applying to medical school.

“I’m enjoying my time playing football, but I’m really excited to see what could happen after USC.”