The Daily Illini

Canada’s Cathro contributes experience to team

Illinois+defender+Ashley+Cathro+%2833%29+dribbles+the+ball+during+the+game+against+Northern+Illinois+at+the+Illinois+Soccer+Stadium+on+Sunday%2C+Aug.+26%2C+2018.+The+Illini+won+8-0.
Illinois defender Ashley Cathro (33) dribbles the ball during the game against Northern Illinois at the Illinois Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. The Illini won 8-0.

Illinois defender Ashley Cathro (33) dribbles the ball during the game against Northern Illinois at the Illinois Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. The Illini won 8-0.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois defender Ashley Cathro (33) dribbles the ball during the game against Northern Illinois at the Illinois Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018. The Illini won 8-0.


Illinois freshman defender Ashley Cathro is, in fact, a foreigner, but her new life in Champaign hasn’t felt all that different.

Cathro hails from Canada, and despite being over 2,000 miles from home, she still easily gets a taste of some of her favorite things.

“From Canada, I like Drake and Justin Bieber; they’re probably my favorites,” Cathro said.

Possibly the biggest difference for Cathro may be the lay of the land, with a few key geographic differences between central Illinois and the country up north.

“The lifestyle is pretty similar, except for at home, I’m very close to the ocean and lots of mountains,” Cathro said.

Cathro is one of many promising athletes that Canada has produced in recent years. Young stars also hailing from Canada include Duke forward R.J. Barrett, expected to be the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, and 17-year-old soccer star Alphonso Davies, who recently completed a $13.5 million transfer to European soccer power Bayern Munich and was featured in the recent Nike commercial narrated by Colin Kaepernick.

Cathro developed her skills in the same place as Davies, within the Vancouver Whitecaps academy, and was also named the 2016 BC Soccer Youth Player of the Year before arriving on campus.

The freshman, who represented her country at the 2018 U20 CONCACAF Championships, has found early success at Illinois. She has started six games in the Illinois backline, including the last three consecutively, registering an assist, while helping to keep two clean sheets.

After spending the last two years away from her parents at Burnaby Secondary School, Cathro is comfortable being away from home.

“Coming from Canada, it’s not been too different,” Cathro said. “I’ve been fortunate enough the past two years living away from home as well, so I’m used to being away from my family. These girls have been super inviting and welcoming; it’s like a new family.”

While freshmen do not always know what to expect when it comes to a team role, Cathro feels comfortable being deployed wherever head coach Janet Rayfield needs her.

“Coming in, I just think I’ve made a difference on the team,” Cathro said. “I think my experience has really helped the others around me.”

While Vancouver’s population towers over that of Champaign’s, Cathro likes her new, smaller environment, where meeting new people has become much easier.

“I’ve enjoyed it so far,” Cathro said. “It’s obviously a lot smaller of a city from what I’m used to, but I like having a smaller community and getting to know people.”

Heading into Big Ten play, Cathro hopes the Illini will build on the momentum they have built from a 5-2 nonconference season. As a starter in the heart of the defense, Cathro will have lots of responsibility, but she is ready for the challenge.

“I’ve been pretty happy with how it’s been,” Cathro said. “The record we have gives us confidence going into Big Ten play, and I think it will be a successful season.”

@MilesP_H

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