Arizona volleyball outside hitter Ashley Harris has proven she is a force to be reckoned with on the court.
Harris, a sophomore from Petaluma, Calif., entered Arizona’s program last year and has since taken tremendous strides toward developing into a physically dominant player on both sides of the net.
“I think we’re barely scratching the surface with her,” UA volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said. “Ashley isn’t even close to being where she’s going to be. My expectations are that she’s going to grow into a full six-rotation player; she’s going to pass, hit and be doing exactly what Madi Kingdon is doing, except she’s going to be 6-foot-8 [instead of 6-foot-1].”
After being utilized mainly as a blocking sub last year, Harris took advantage of early season opportunities to earn more playing time. She’s currently ranked third on the team with 74 kills and has tallied seven solo blocks.
“Ashley has really brought a lot to our team so far this year,” UA senior outside hitter Madi Kingdon said. “I’m very proud of her. She’s really proving herself in conference and is starting to make a name for herself.”
While blocking is arguably Harris’ greatest strength, she’s been more than capable of holding her own on offense as well.
In the Wildcats five-set victory over then-No. 19 ASU, Harris was able to pick up the slack during Kingdon’s worst offensive performance of the year, contributing a career-high 19 kills, which is more than double her previous career mark.
During Arizona’s sweep of UCLA in Malibu, Calif., Harris notched seven kills and was in on six of the UA’s 15 blocks.
“Just to be able to contribute and put in to what the team is doing [and to] be a part of everything, it’s an awesome feeling,” Harris said. “I thrive under pressure and love playing in front of big crowds and being in high-risk situations. I’m just really excited to get more opportunities to perform and continue to prove myself.”
Rubio said that he thinks the hardest for Harris will be handling the responsibility of showing up to practice every day and actively working towards her maximum potential.
He added that he thinks it’s especially hard for younger players to have the drive to work hard and get better every day. In Harris’ case, now that she’s being counted on to play on a regular basis, those expectations for her to try to push the limits of her potential both in practice and during matches becomes that much greater, he said.
As a result, Rubio has recently been pushing the team, and Harris, a lot harder during practice.
“[Rubio] has been holding [Harris] to a higher standard because he’s seen what she can do,” Kingdon said. “Now, it’s his job to make sure she can be up and ready to hit every single time. It’s important for her to know that she is able to score on every ball; it’s just a matter of going after it and making sure it happens.”
Rubio said that while he’d still like to see Harris talk a bit more and have more charisma on the floor, right now, she’s performing very well and has already exceeded expectations.
“I think she’s a confident young lady,” Rubio said. “That’s one of the reasons she’s been able to perform at this level and [succeed]. She has a really good brain, is intellectual and doesn’t have a lot of ups and down.”
Follow Evan Rosenfeld on Twitter @EvanRosenfeld17