Cayleigh Ashman’s high school volleyball career ended in storybook fashion last fall.
Ashman, a senior on the volleyball team at Bishop Shanahan High, in Downingtown, Pa., led the Eagles to their first District I title and helped the squad reach the semifinals of the PIAA Class AAA Championships. For her efforts, Ashman, a 6-foot middle blocker who will join Temple’s volleyball team in the fall, was named Most Valuable Player of the Chester-Montgomery County League and shared the “Daily Local News” co-Player of the Year with her teammate and friend, senior Kayla Beck, who will continue her career at La Salle. Earlier this month, Ashman received yet another accolade when she was given the High School Athlete of the Year award as part of the Philadelphia awards program for the National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
“It’s really an amazing honor,” Ashman said about winning the award. “Volleyball doesn’t get recognized as much as other sports, so to be named High School Athlete of the Year, that was an awesome feeling. Our team had an amazing season and my whole senior year, individually, has just been icing on the cake.”
Now, Ashman is preparing to take her game to the next level. She decided to stay close to home by choosing Temple after being recruited by Maryland-Baltimore County, Pittsburgh and Georgetown.
“I love the team, and the coaches are great,” Ashman said. “It just felt right.”
The draw of the city and Temple’s School of Pharmacy were contributing factors in her final decision, she said.
As a member of the Synergy Volleyball Club, which plays at 4372 Manayunk Ave., Ashman already had ties to Temple before she settled on attending the university.
Synergy, which trains young volleyball players to compete at the college level, has produced several Temple players in recent years, including 2003 Atlantic Ten Conference Player of the Year Alison Runk, Stephanie Buynovsky and Jessica Waybrant.
The club practices in the Aspiring Champions facility in King of Prussia and competes in several tournaments across the nation – including the Martin Luther King tournament, which was held at Temple in January.
“We have a good relationship with [Synergy
Director Rich Johnson] and the club,” Temple coach Bob Bertucci said. “He is used to working with players in the high-school age range. He can identify kids who can be Division-I caliber athletes and he saw that type of talent in Cayleigh.” Bertucci and graduate assistant coach Katherine Hopkins have watched Ashman compete in a couple of Synergy’s tournaments.
Bertucci said he and Hopkins have been impressed with what they’ve seen so far.”She’s a very good athlete,” Bertucci said.
“She’s got good jumping ability, she’s quick, she has a fast arm and she plays a middle blocker position that we need to fill.”
Asked about Ashman’s chances of making
the rotation in her freshman year, Bertucci said, “From a skill standpoint, I think she’s going to challenge for a spot at the middle blocking position immediately.”
He said the team is desperately in need of a “middle blocker” and not a “middle hitter.” Sure enough, blocking was one of the Owls’ weaknesses last season.Despite winning the A-10 Eastern Division with an 8-5 record, the Owls ranked seventh in the conference in blocking at 2.04 blocks per game.
The Owls were outblocked in their loss to Saint Louis, the eventual A-10 champions, in the conference tournament semifinals.
Ashman said her main goal for next fall is to earn playing time. Depending on how well she plays at the net will be a huge factor in how successful she is in reaching that goal.
“Blocking is an important part of the game, because if you can’t play defense, then you can’t play offense,” Ashman said. “I know there are still things I have to work on.”Cayleigh’s father, Greg, was her coach at Bishop Shanahan and an assistant coach of the 18-year-old squad at Synergy. He said Cayleigh’s “dedication to the game is probably one of her biggest attributes.”
“She’s always strived to be the best player
that she can be,” the elder Ashman said. “Physically, she’s worked as hard as possible at every aspect of game, just trying to get stronger and faster.”In addition to those attributes, Bertucci said he likes Cayleigh’s attitude on the court.
“She has a very positive outlook on the game and competing,” Bertucci said. “She seems to really enjoy playing volleyball
and that’s an integral quality that we’re always looking to add to our team … I think she’s going to bring a positive boost of energy into our club.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.