From left, Ashlee Reed, Ashley DeNeal, Ashley Green, Ashley Crenshaw and Ashley Hunter.
If you walk into UAlbany's gym during volleyball practice and yell, "Hey, Ashley!" chances are, five girls will turn to look. That's right; five young women who share the same name are part of the amazing women's volleyball program that currently boasts a record of 17-3. But these great student-athletes share more than just a name.
The majority of the girls come from out of state. Senior, co-captain, Ashlee "Ash" Reed, originally from Round Rock, Texas explains that the team is a family. "We're all going through the same thing together. We support each other." Everyone on the team lives with at least one teammate who is always there for encouragement. Playing a sport in college at the Division I level is incredibly time consuming. On average, they have only one day a week free. If classes are cancelled, it becomes a day of volleyball practice. Senior, Ashley "Greenie" Green of Indianapolis, Indiana notes that when they're not working out, they're studying. "It's like a job; we have to work hard and manage our time well."
Volleyball has always been a significant part of their lives and while sophomore, Ashley "Bama" Crenshaw from Birmingham, Alabama still isn't positive about what she wants to do after college, she, along with her teammates, will continue to value the time spent playing. Junior, Ashley "D" DeNeal of Muncie, Indiana and "Ash" Reed hope to play beach volleyball together for a few years following graduation. Ashley "Hunter" Hunter of Moreno Valley, California, an accounting major, wants to stay within the sports profession. She hopes to become an accountant for a professional sports team, not necessarily volleyball. Green, who is a marketing major, agrees. She can picture herself in the sports marketing field.
UAlbany Women's Volleyball Team. (Click photo for larger image.)
Many people don't realize the level of competition these women face. Their team goals this season include winning the conference, hosting the conference tournament and winning in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The athletes also have individual daily goals, like senior, "Hunter," who aims to stay healthy and improve each day. During matches they focuses on perfecting team skills, but also each individual has certain standards that they strive to reach according to the position they play.
The team encourages fans to come watch the matches. They all agree that, "once people come and see one match, they want to come back again." The girls have incredibly supportive parents, who travel from far away to watch their daughters compete.
Despite the time commitment and hard work that goes into being a student-athlete, all of "the Ashleys" agree that they wouldn't change the experience they've had for any other. While their names may be the same, these women have unique personalities that are reflected in the positions they play. Check out the action at the next game and cheer on "the Ashleys" and their teammates as they spike, dig and kill their way to victory.
By Jennifer Lonschein