Ashley Maria King: “Soccer has always surrounded me.” (Photo courtesy of the Lancers)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Perhaps Ashley Maria King was destined to be involved in soccer.
After all, she played soccer in youth league and in high school.
“Soccer has always surrounded me,” she said.
Her grandfather, Franz Sauer, made his mark first as a referee than as a referee assignor in the Rochester area. He worked the sideline of Rochester Lancers and Flash matches after arriving from Germany almost six decades ago before turning to the paperwork off the field.
“He would spend countless hours nightly assigning refs, rescheduling games, mailing out fines,” King said. “He did not retire until just a couple of years ago. I can’t find anyone in the local soccer community who doesn’t know Franz as a player, assigner, or the crazy German ref who gave them a red card.”
Sauer attended games of the original Lancers back in the day, was a Rochester Rhinos season ticket holder and is a regular at Lancers games — indoors and out.
“He is so proud of me and tells me all the time that life comes full circle,” King said. “He would ref and watch Lancers games in the 70s, and now his granddaughter is in the middle of the Lancers field announcing players. It is really special.”
That is only part of the many responsibilities King has as the team’s president of operations while being president of Salvatore’s Old Fashioned Pizzeria.
So, it should not be surprising that King will be among 20 individuals who will be inducted into the Lancers indoor Wall of Fame at halftime of the team’s Jan. 31 home game against the Baltimore Blast at the Dome Arena.
“I was very honored to be included,” King said. “Our outdoor wall of fame highlights many influential Lancers players and staff from the 70’s that were pioneers of the game and the brand. It is odd to think of myself, 30-years-old and still working with the team, to be recognized on a “Wall of Fame.” So, I guess I was quite surprised, but very honored. SoccerSam [Fantauzzo, team owner] does such a tremendous job of showing appreciation to those who are loyal to him and his brands, so it does not come to a surprise to me that he wanted to recognize all the people that helped him start and grow his indoor soccer franchise. But it does surprise me that I was included.”
But not to SoccerSam, who has praised Ashley and team director of operations Kayla Kent-Moreira publicly on the radio, saying that each of them do the work of 10 people. He wasn’t kidding, given their many responsibilities. “Ashley runs all my companies and her love for the game makes this a fun hobby for her,” he said. “She prepares all aspects of our game day party.”
King has appreciated those compliments. “Sam is amazing at showing appreciation and respect to those who are loyal to him,” she said. “Kayla and I have Sam’s back, and he knows it. We are like a family, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
As it turned out, King started out with the Lancers after graduating SUNY Geneseo with a business and marketing degree.
“He didn’t care about any of my marketing or business qualifications, extracurriculars or skills on my resume,” King said. “He saw that I used to have a part-time job selling merchandise at concerts and arena events. He needed someone to run merchandise for his indoor soccer team and hired me on the spot to do so. So, I started with the Lancers just selling merchandise, I would be given a budget and would purchase t-shirts, sweatshirts, knick-knacks, etc. and sell them at the games at the Blue Cross Arena.”
King started helping at Salvatore’s office, taking on more roles before eventually running all aspects of the company, and of course, the Lancers.
“It has been extremely rewarding, being a part of soccer and restaurant history in Rochester,” she said. “I have learned so much in so many different business aspects. I have grown as an individual into a more confident and stronger person. I owe who I am to this job.”
King and Kent-Moreira have formed quite a dynamic duo in both front offices.
“She’s literally my best friend,” Kent-Moreira said. “We spend more time with each other than we do with our husbands. I mostly do Lancers and help her with Salvatore’s and she mostly does Salvatore’s and helps me with the Lancers. We’re always there to fill in or help out. It’s a perfect team, a perfect pair. We both care a lot about SoccerSam, we both care a lot about the Lancers, and she helps me in where I am lacking, maybe, or some of the things I am not good at and the same for her with Salvatore’s and the things that I fill in and the things I know how to do that she is lacking in. It really works well. We have no issues. Everything is just like we figure it out and get it done together. She is a blessing to have by my side as a co-worker. So, I’m super thankful for her every day for everything she does to help me and to be successful. She’s awesome.”
Since she has been with the Lancers since Day One, King has seen it all. So, she has many great memories over the past decade. She had three main ones.
“My first real memorable moment was one game at the Blue Cross Arena many years ago,” she said. “It was one of our higher attendance games. I took a break from my merch stand and just stood up in the corner of the arena, looking down at all of the people in the seats who were there to see our product, to experience our party. Kids jumping up and down, music blasting, fans dancing. I just had this overwhelming warmth grow through my body, a sense of accomplishment and pride. In that moment, I knew I loved my job and that I was right where I was supposed to be.”
King and the Lancers did not have such a warm feeling when the team got stranded in the Midwest due inclement weather. Their flights back home got cancelled, but their luggage wound up home in Rochester.
“We had to stop at an outlet mall to get everyone clothes,” she said. “It was the most comical trip, but logistically a nightmare. Finding hotels and restaurants that could take so many people in unexpectedly. It was also negative 15 degrees, plus wind. Days passed with no way to get to Rochester, and our next weekend away trip was coming up. So, we all rented vans and drove to Milwaukee [for a game]. Literally, a two-day trip turned to 10 days. But it was so much fun, and a trip I don’t think any of us will ever forget.”
In 2017, Sam decided to go outdoors with a Lancers men’s and women’s team.
“It was only the two of us,” King said. “And we had three weeks to pull it off. Somehow – we did it. I still don’t know how. An amazing sense of accomplishment.”
Tickets for the Blast game on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. are still available at RLancers.com or at the Dome Arena box office in Henrietta, N.Y. The Lancers also will host the St. Louis Ambush on Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.