When freshman outside hitter Ashley Smith was nine years old, she followed her brother to baseball practice, not knowing that simple act would affect her future.
“One of [my brother’s] teammate’s, his mom coached a [volleyball] club and she was like you should come play so I went and tried out,” Smith said.
Even though Smith struggled at first, she stuck with volleyball. That choice has paid off.
Smith earned back-to-back 24-5A district and Galveston County MVP honors at Clear Creek (Texas) High School. She was also named an Under Armour High School All-American honorable mention.
Through her first 11 collegiate games, Smith leads TCU in kills (2.95) and points (3.30) per set. The outside hitter also recorded 64 digs, for fifth on the team.
“Obviously she’s a huge part of our success,” head coach Prentice Lewis said.
The League City, Texas native recorded a team-and career-high 17 kills and 19 digs in a loss to No. 3 University of Southern California and has led the team in kills four times. She has also recorded the highest attack percentage (kills minus errors divided by total attacks) for the last five games.
“She’s just an all-around happy, fun kid who loves to play volleyball and wants to compete,” Lewis said.
Smith attributes her collegiate success to having been the “go-to person” for three years in high school and the experience she gained through that role.
“So now coming here I’m able to be confident and be able to still be reliable even though I’m a freshman,” Smith said.
Smith is one of eight freshmen on the Frogs’ roster, a group that brings a winning attitude to the program, junior middle blocker Mattie Burleson said.
“They definitely bring that ‘winning's the only option’ dynamic and attitude to the team,” Burleson said. “They’re used to winning and we want that here.”
In addition to a winning attitude, Smith brings energy and adds to the team dynamic with her ability to attack the net and play defense, Burleson said.
Smith acknowledged that the pace of the college game has been a big adjustment, but her on-court performance hides that concern. She is trying to find a routine to bring even more success on the court.
“If I play super good with my hair one way, I’ll probably have that same hair for a long time—until I play bad in that hair,” Smith said laughing. “Or if I say a certain prayer before, I’ll say the same prayer for a long time.”
The Frogs have jumped to an 8-3 record without Smith following a superstition or routine. Big 12 play starts Sept. 25 and Smith knows it’s important to stay focused on the team and the next opponent no matter how she plays.
“We’re very good as a team, playing as one right now,” she said. “We just want to keep that going as we go into conference and into this weekend [tournament at UNC-Greensboro].”