A rival coach calls him the best boys soccer player in the Greater Spokane League, head and shoulders above everyone else.
The compliment amuses Joe Ascolese, who is more comfortable pursuing another line of thought.
Such as the correlation between soccer and chess.
Ascolese, a Gonzaga Prep junior, plays both. Discussing a link between his avocations interests him more than tooting his horn.
Yet with his response - that chess and soccer are analogous because the best players are always a few moves ahead - he makes the exact point that the rival coach brought to light.
Ascolese, the coach said, anticipates the action on the field before anyone else.
That’s exactly what the best chess players do, although giving up a bishop with a greater goal in mind requires a bit less strain.
Ascolese, a modest sort, will agree that he anticipates better than most.
“But anticipation comes from experience, and I should have experience after playing 11 to 12 years.”
As for accepting the highest accolades, Ascolese would prefer to defer.
“I’m glad someone has that much confidence in me,” he said, “but I usually don’t think of myself like that … because that can only hurt you.”
Ascolese made a name for himself during football season, as a second-team, all-league running back. But his gridiron experience is limited to three years and his size (165 pounds) might scare away football recruiters.
Being a part of the successful G-Prep football program has prepared Ascolese for the ascension of Bullpups soccer.
During Ascolese’s freshman season, G-Prep was a mediocre team with many of the same players. Last year, new coach Christian Birrer prodded G-Prep to third place in the State AAA ranks. The Bullpups are favored to boot Mead from its nine-year position as the GSL’s best.
“We should be up there at least one or two; we’re hoping,” Ascolese said. “But there are always elements like injuries. I’m definitely not going to look past Mead.”
Ascolese played midfield half of last season, feeding Chad Zlateff for several of his 15 goals. Ascolese and Zlateff are forwards this year, taking passes from Tyler Jordan and Ben Lambert.
Ascolese lives in the Riverside School District. He wanted to attend Prep for its academics and AAA standing.
Soccer has been his favorite sport since age 5. He was named one of the nation’s best players as a freshman, then attended an inter-regional tournament last November in Cocoa Beach, Fla.
“Their style back east is totally different from Washington,” he said. “They have fancier footwork and really good skills. Soccer here is more direct: going fast and running hard to the ball.”
MEMO: GSL soccer Defending champion: Mead. It won the last nine titles outright and has tied for the other two since the league’s inception. Best returning placer: Gonzaga Prep, third at State AAA tournament. Returning all-leaguers: First team - Joe Ascolese, G-Prep, junior; Chad Zlateff, G-Prep, senior. Second team - Trevor Booth, Lewis and Clark, jr.; Peter Raber, Shadle Park, jr.; Rob Richardson, University, sr.; Biniam Afenegus, North Central, sr.; Jim Morton, Mead, sr.; Ryan Vane, Shadle, jr. We’re not at Shadle anymore, Toto: Jake Gilbert, a first-team, all-league forward, has transferred from the Highlanders to a Kansas high school. Top returning scorers: Zlateff, 15 goals; Morton, 10. Top newcomer: Ferris freshman Abbas Faridnia. Favorites: G-Prep, Mead. The first time they play is April 3, at Prep. Big time: The State AAA semifinals (May 26) and championship match (May 27) are scheduled at Central Valley High.