Strong middle hitters can power a volleyball team to greatness.
Emmee Ashby fits that role.
Now, after a standout prep career, the 6-foot Payson High graduate heads to the big city to take her game to the next level.
Ashby has committed to play volleyball at Simmons College in Boston, Mass. Division 3 schools aren’t allowed to award athletic scholarships, but Ashby earned several academic scholarships and awards to the school known for its academic programs. She plans to study nursing.
Ashby played on the PHS varsity team as a sophomore before transferring to Queen Creek for her junior season. She returned to the Longhorns for her senior campaign and enjoyed another strong season. She led all Division 3 middle hitters with a .310 hitting efficiency. Ashby made the Arizona Republic’s Division 3 All-State Second Team this season, as well as the Division 3 All-Section 4 Second Team in voting by coaches at aia365.com.
“Emmee’s .310 hitting was the best any middle has ever hit for me,” said PHS coach Arnold Stonebrink. “And she also was the third best server on the team last season statistically. But Emmee also had a great attitude and was very encouraging, very much a team-oriented player.”
She considered several other schools, but said Simmons was the right choice for her.
“I’ve been recruited by schools of different sizes across the country, but the real reason I’m going to college is to get an education,” Ashby said. “Simmons is ranked 53rd in the entire country for education. So volleyball is great and I get to do what I love for another four years, but ultimately I’m going to college to get an education and why not get an education at a school that’s ranked 53rd in the entire country.”
She said Simmons’ small class size helped her decide on that school. “It’s a small school so I’m getting a really personal education,” she said. “So, rather than be in a lecture hall of 250 kids, I’m in a classroom with a 13-to-1 ratio of student to teacher. So that makes for a more personal education. So I feel like when I graduate in four years with a bachelor’s degree I will have really learned something, had a really personal education and I’ll be ready to go off into the workforce.”
Simmons coach Alesia Vaccari is thrilled to have Ashby joining her team.
“We’re real excited at Simmons to have Emmee as a Shark,” Vaccari said. “We started recruiting her back in the fall. She brings great enthusiasm and passion to the game and that’s just what we need in our program right now.
“We’re just really excited about her. She’s kind of a standout in Arizona. And I just think she’s a gritty team player and is going to bring some force in the middle and that’s what we need at Simmons.”
Ashby said all the time she spent both working on her game and studying over the years helped her get this opportunity.
“The sacrifices I’ve made in my social life and the hard work really paid off,” she said.
She said competing on club teams had a big impact on her game. She helped Eclipse win the club state championship a year ago and played for Club Rim this year.
“It was club ball that fine tuned me and got me to where I’m at today,” she said. “You’re traveling the country playing at national tournaments, playing the best players from the entire country, so it exposes you to better players, better coaching, a better game. High school was great. I learned a lot and I had great coaches and people that encouraged me to be all I could be, but it was really club that pushed me.”
She finished with a 3.843 grade point average and received a Simmons grant, as well as the $48,000 Simmons Presidential Scholarship. Additionally, she earned a $2,500 Ronald McDonald Charity House Foundation Scholarship, a $1,000 Kiwanis Club Scholarship, $600 from the Mogollon Health Alliance, $500 from the Moose Lodge and $100 from the Mogollon Sporting Association.
As she gets set to embark on a new chapter in her life in the big city, Ashby said Payson remains a part of her.
“Payson is what molded me into the person that I am,” she said. “Because, without the support, the encouragement, the personal friendships and relationships I’ve developed in Payson, I wouldn’t have become the person and individual that I am.”
The Arizona Volleyball Coaches Association invited Ashby to play in the AZVCA Senior All-Star Game at Eastern Arizona College on June 7. She did and teammates selected her the team captain.
Stonebrink said Ashby should flourish at the next level.
“I believe Emmee will take full advantage of the opportunity Simmons College is giving her, both academically and athletically,” he said. “I believe Emmee will thrive under the more intense level of play that college proffers.
“And she will make full use of the chance she has to be in a medical college.”