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Lewis serves up collegiate volleyball career

All-district performer made big strides as a senior
Ennis High senior Ashley Lewis still has several years ahead of her as a Lady Lion.
Next fall, however, Ashley will have to trade in her maroon duds for a blue and white uniform. Lewis recently signed her letter of intent to play volleyball for the North Central Texas College (NCTC) Lady Lions in Gainesville. She’s fired up about the opportunity, but Ashley knows it will be important for her to deliver on the court.
“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking to be thinking about being a college athlete,” she said.
“I have to play well for the school because they gave me a scholarship.”
Ashley actually went through a couple of interesting weeks where she was being contacted daily by NCTC and Temple College as they waged a little recruiting war for her services.
“They are kind of rivals and being recruited by both schools was weird at first because I couldn’t decide what I wanted,” Lewis said.
“When I decided to take NCTC’s offer [of a full scholarship], I called Temple back and they were still trying to change my mind, but they didn’t offer me a full scholarship.”
Ashley isn’t thrilled about all the changes that come with college, such as having to share a bathroom in the dorms, but as far as playing Lady Lion volleyball for coach Angie Bullard – she has a good feeling about the future.
“[Bullard] will push me and be tough on me so that I’ll do well,” Ashley said.
“She was telling me about the tournaments they compete in and they’re very good; I’ve seen them play. The players seem pretty nice.”
Lewis’ skills won’t be wasted as she’s slated to serve and play in the middle as a freshman. Obviously if she performs at a high level, Ashley’s role will only increase. The future kinesiology major believes the improvements she made during high school, and specifically her senior year, will enable Ashley to get the job done at the next level.
“My serving has improved over the years, but hitting in the middle was different this year because I’m used to playing outside,” Lewis said.
“I got the hang of it after a while and I think playing middle will be pretty good in college. Having to do some new things for our [Ennis] team this year helped me prepare for it.”
Ashley was a varsity performer for Ennis High in each of her four seasons. Lewis was a second team all-district selection as a junior and a first team all-district player for the 2008 Lady Lions.
One of Ennis’ team captains, Ashley’s senior-season stats showcase her versatility: 125 kills, 74 digs, 37 blocks and 34 aces.
She credits Ennis High coach Kim Vernor with her steady incline on the court to be in the position she’s enjoying now.
“Coach Vernor always pushed me to do well and tried to teach me what was right,” Ashley said.
“If I was having a bad game, she’d tell me I could step up and get the job done. Even if I needed a snack to get through practice, she was always there for me and I think she’s a very good coach.”
Lewis’ Lady Lion teams reached the postseason during her freshman and senior seasons, so obviously it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Ashley is glad she went out on a high note.
“It was rough for us in some of our past seasons, but it all came together this year,” she said.
“We played smarter and connected with one another; that made a big difference.”
Positive family influences are essential to the success of most young athletes and Ashley was no different. While her parents always believed in her, Ashley points to her sister, Chasalan Roberts, as the foremost figure when it came to her volleyball career. Chasalan obviously had skills of her own, considering she played for Texas A&M-Commerce earlier this decade.
“My sister really enjoys volleyball and she always offered to help me practice and improve on something,” Ashley said.
“She’d correct my mistakes and be yelling from the stands during my games – just being a sister. We connected because we both love volleyball and put our hearts in it.”
As for Ashley’s high school coach, Vernor can understand why a college scout would look to add Lewis to his or her roster. Vernor sees an intensity and desire to excel within Ashley, but her quickness, agility, leaping ability and power don’t hurt matters either.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Lewis’ long and lean build has her looking the part of a volleyball player to be sure.
“Ashley’s skills are still developing, but the ability is there and she’s coachable,” Vernor said.
“If you have that natural ability, you can be taught volleyball skills. She’s an all-around player who could even play back row in college if that’s what her coach wanted.”
Thinking back over the past-four years, Vernor noted the big improvements Ashley has made in her defense and passing. While she’s working to develop more consistency on her jump serve, Vernor said it’s a dangerous weapon for Lewis when she’s on her game.
More than anything, Vernor was impressed with the way Ashley handled the position change from outside hitter to the middle as a senior.
“After hitting outside for three years, I moved Ashley to the middle and she was open to hitting off quick sets, but we had to change her timing,” Vernor said.
“I’m sure being able to handle that change makes her more valuable to college coaches. She was a team player for us.”
Before the ’08 season, coach and player had a talk about the expectations for Lewis. Vernor could see the senior was driven to have her best season at Ennis High. During the season and even after, Ashley kept her nose to the grindstone.
“She’d call me about working out on the weekends and then after the season, Ashley wanted to find time to work with me to prepare to be a college player,” Vernor said.
“Her attitude was in the right place and that’s key because dedication will be even more important in college. Ashley comes from an athletic, successful family and I know her mother [Tondra Roberts] is super proud of her.”
It wasn’t until after the ’08 season when Vernor reflected on the Lady Lions’ campaign that she truly understood Ashley’s value to her team.
“When Ashley was at her best, we were tough to beat,” the coach said.
“Her play had a tremendous impact on how our team did this year – more than I ever realized at the time.”
Those who followed the Lady Lion volleyball team closely this year knew the players’ mantra was “sisterhood,” and Ashley feels it will be tough to find that same level of unity with a new cast of characters.
“Hopefully the girls I’ll play with next year are something like my teammates here because they’re the best,” Lewis said.
“We were a very close team that did everything together and I’m glad I was a part of it this year. Everybody came together so we could do our best.”

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Posted by on Jan 27 2009. Filed under Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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