Walk into any girls’ volleyball match involving Shadow Ridge, or one of its practices, and it’s not hard to pick out who the star of the team. But if you watch for less than five minutes, you might never get the impression 6-foot-1-inch Ashley Smith is the Mustangs’ leader.
Smith’s type doesn’t come around that often. She’s the star, but she’s soft-spoken and easy going while getting her teammates involved. As Shadow Ridge coach Karissa Guthrie put it, Smith isn’t selfish — she’s selfless.
Spend a little more than those five minutes watching her in a match, however, and you’ll eventually recognize why she should be a candidate for Nevada’s Gatorade Player of the Year and is headed to the University of Kansas to play volleyball. She is dominating, and can seize a moment while taking over a match in the time it takes you to check a cellphone notification.
“She makes her teammates understand it’s not about her,” Guthrie said. “With that being said, is she one of our leaders on the court? Absolutely, and she understands that she has that responsibility on the court. But I think she acts like that and she talks like that because it’s important for her teammates to understand that it’s going to take all of them to win — not just her.”
Smith isn’t shy about giving her teammates praise for her success, either, crediting them for contributing to her ascension in the valley.
“My biggest influence has been my team,” Smith said. “They help me so much. When I’m breaking down in a game, they help me come back up. They help me through with my hard times on and off the court.”
Not that she has that many down moments on the court. After all, she’s recorded more than 300 kills this season and is averaging more than four per set for the Mustangs. More importantly, Guthrie can count on her to be an extension of the coaching staff on the court.
“I talk to Ashley a lot, to be that conduit, to talk to our freshman that’s on the floor,” Guthrie said. “She’s really good at doing that, she’s really good at lifting the girls up and it’s a huge help as coaches. We can’t be on the floor playing with them, we’ve been there and done that. But for Ashley to kind of be that in-between person and be on the court and be able to lead, it’s a huge help.”
One coach who won’t miss her in the Southwest League is Legacy’s Ray Lewis, whose Longhorns didn’t win one set against Shadow Ridge this season.
“She is one of those players that coaches cringe about, but when you meet her your outlook changes because she’s such a nice, down-to-earth kid. You can’t help but like her,” he said. “Ashley is a stronger player because she doesn’t try to do it herself. She is the type of player who can change the complexion of a game, but she is also the type of player who trusts her teammates and can rely on her teammates. Even if she is not involved in the point being scored, she gets excited for her teammates cause they scored the point.”
Shadow Ridge (22-9) opens postseason play against Desert Oasis Tuesday in the Sunset Region quarterfinals at Arbor View, and Smith is leading the charge after a season-ending loss at league rival Bishop Gorman last week reminded her and the Mustangs they have a target on their back and are by no means a low-key program.
“It’s been one heck of a motivation for us,” Smith said, of the loss to the Gaels. “We wanted to come out strong this year knowing that there is going to be harder competition — Palo Verde and Gorman — in our division now, and we just wanted to prove that we are a better team on the court, and we are here to fight for what we want.
“And we want state.”