Ashley Engle: New Volleyball star shines bright over lone star sky
Ashley Engle is just a freshman playing in her fourth week of collegiate volleyball, but she is already making a significant impact as a starter on UT's No. 5 ranked women's volleyball team.
During the last two UT games played at the highly-competitive Time Warner Texas Invitational tournament here in Austin, this 6-3 right side hitter and setter posted 41 kills and 20 digs, leading the squad in kills and placing third in digs for the tourney.
As impressive as these numbers are, especially when achieved against two of the top-four teams in the nation (No. 4 Santa Clara and No. 2 Penn State), they don't seem to overly enthuse this charismatic Californian.
"None of that matters when you lose a game. I am extremely self-critical, and it takes me some time to get over a defeat," Engle says while reflecting on UT's five-game thriller against No. 2 Penn State, which went down to the wire with PSU winning the fifth and deciding game by a 15-13 tally.
UT fell just short in winning its home tournament, but the team performed well and Engle, an All-Tournament Team pick at the Time Warner invite, has already showed great athletic abilities on the court.
Her "negative criticism", as Engle defines it, is one of the main characteristics that shapes nearly every great athlete and competitor.
Engle's desire to always do better has pushed her far in her chosen sport to date, and has helped her create an impressive resume before ever coming to Texas: an All-American who was named to the 2006 Junior Olympics All-Tournament Team in Atlanta, a member of the 2005 U.S. Youth National Team that finished fourth in the FIVA Youth U18 World Championships in Macau, China, holder of numerous California Interscholastic Federation "Player of the Year" titles, and the nod as third-ranked recruit nationally.
To date with the 5-2 Longhorns, the versatile Engle, who can play up front and also is emerging as a terrific setter, has earned the start in each match. The powerful lefty stands second on the squad in kills (88), second in digs (83), third in kills-per-game average (3.14) and third in total blocks (17). Still, Engle says that playing at the top collegiate level is a whole different world.
"College brings so many different aspects of your life together," Ashley noted. "You need to perform well both in you academics and your athletics, while also trying to leave some time for your personal life. It's a big balancing act."
So far, she finds her college experience to be challenging, but exciting at the same time.
Leaving California and her family was tough, but it was something, she felt she had to do.
"I have always wanted to explore new ways and to meet new people, and I felt that Texas could offer me the best college experience, so that's why I chose Texas over some close-to-home California schools," she says.
Asked what she misses the most from her California life, Ashley stated that she misses her parents, her dog and her sister, Sarah - the one person who got her interested in volleyball at a young age. Sarah also played collegiate volleyball at the University of Delaware from 2001-04 where she was an Academic All-Conference standout as a 6-1 outside hitter.
Ashley has played many sports in her life, but volleyball was the one that intrigued her the most. It was the only sport where she felt that a person can never be good enough, because there are always things to improve.
"Volleyball just has so many dimensions and every day I feel I have to go out there and prove myself over and over again," she noted. So whenever she finishes all of the duties and responsibilities as a student-athlete, Ashley likes to relax by listening to some good old 80's music and by eating - especially by treating herself with ice cream and cookies.
However, Ashley didn't come such a long way just to have fun and relax. This teenager is determined to make some of her goals come true. There is some serious business she wants to take care of.
"I came here to become the best and to win the National Championship," Engle noted, determinedly. "I am ready to do whatever it takes to help my team achieve that."
Judging by the way she has started her Longhorn career on the court, we could say that she definitely is on the right track.