Catching up with Volleyball's Ashley Engle
July 15, 2009
Longhorns' senior All-America opposite hitter Ashley Engle is coming off another stellar season on the Forty Acres and along with her teammates she is focused on taking the next step toward the NCAA Championship. In 2008, Texas made its first NCAA Semifinals appearance since 1995 and this spring and summer Engle and her teammates have challenged themselves in new ways. Following spring indoor and sand practices, the Horns embarked on a European tour and this summer took it upon the themselves to work out at 6 a.m. all while using last year's disappointment as a motivator for success in 2009.
Texas had a great fall that included a run to the NCAA Semifinals. In a nutshell, how did this spring shape up for the volleyball team? I think the spring season went really well for us. We definitely pushed ourselves more than we ever have before. Ending on a loss in the semifinals gave us a lot of motivation heading into the spring semester. Bailey (Webster) joining the squad was awesome and she added a lot to our team, while also handling the transition from high school to college quite well. We did our normal transition from indoor to the sand again this spring. Once again we played in the Collegiate Beach Nationals, but were unable to match our high standard we set in 2008 by winning the event. We played well, however, we could have only matched our success by winning the whole thing. The beach experience, tough indoor practices and the entire spring were capped off by a great trip to Europe.
What was the European experience like and how did the trip improve the team for 2009? The Europe trip was a great experience for all of us. It was two solid weeks with all girls and we got along great. We went undefeated against different pro, national and junior national teams in the different countries that we visited. I think the thing that I took away from the trip the most was the connection that I now have with some of my teammates that I wasn't as connected to before. I was able to really learn about some of my teammates and who they are. We play together and eat together, but seldom do you have a chance to know who everyone really is and I think that trip provided those opportunities. On the trip, we did our best to room with different players in each country, which contributed to everyone growing closer. The entire experience connected our team in a whole new way where we can now relate to each other so much better.
The whole team has stayed in Austin this summer to work out together. What prompted this decision and how are summer workouts progressing? At the end of the spring the players all had a talk and we decided that it would benefit us in many ways if we would all stay in Austin this summer. Summer school is necessary for most of the girls, so we all enrolled in the first session of summer school. As a team we made ourselves do workouts at 6 a.m. which doesn't seem that great during the summer, but I think it has worked out well for us. This is the first summer that I have stayed in Austin and I have already noticed a lot of the benefits of working out and staying connected with my teammates. Now summer school is over and we are all focusing on our workouts, playing indoors and playing a little in the sand. I think Heather (Kisner) has been doing the best job in being a leader in organizing summer workouts. She has really been adamant about sending out text messages and getting people out to play. Our teammates have put it in their minds that if one player is going then they are going to be there as well. It has been a really competitive environment even though it is all optional and we are doing it all on our own. Heather has been doing a great job and ultimately I think a lot of our success will be owed to her determination and getting everyone to continue to play.
At the end of the week, you and all of your teammates will be coaching at Texas Volleyball camps. What is that experience like for you, having the opportunity to pass on some of your knowledge? The days are long, but I really love kids and I think the camps are a lot of fun. I think everyone on the team enjoys the opportunity to work with the campers. After we put in so much hard work it is nice to realize we actually know something about volleyball and then be able to pass that knowledge along. The girls that come to camp are willing to learn and so great to work with.
As the season approaches the team has goals of taking the next step toward an NCAA Championship. What has the team taken from last season and put toward setting goals for this year? Honestly, we started discussing our goals as soon as the spring semester began. As soon as the fall season ends, a new season begins and spring is really the beginning of our season. During that time we have time to work out and play and not be traveling all the time. It also allows us time to hone in on skills that we were struggling with last season and improve our game for 2009. Our goal for this coming year is to end up exactly where we were, but to take the next step and go all the way. Making it to the semifinals last year was super-exciting, but I don't think we had the necessary experience or mental toughness to push through. We made history as the only team to ever be up 2-0 in the semifinals and lose the match, so that left a sour taste in our mouths and has us motivated for this year.