Times Sports Editor
Volleyball has long been a passion for Northview senior Ashley Hull.
Through years of hard work, practice and competition, Hull strengthened her skills and leadership on standout teams. Hull was a member of great squads at North Clay and Northview High School, as well as her travel teams with the Crossroads of America program and Circle City.
Hull's diligence has now earned her a spot at Lake Land College in Illinois to play for coach Jessica Hills next year.
After helping lead Northview to a school-record win total last season, Hull will join a Lakers squad that has perennially been one of the top junior college programs in the country.
Hills' squad last season was ranked between 12th and 17th for much of the season and was ranked in the top-five nationally in 2005.
The Lakers were 24-12 last year and fell just short of reaching the national tourney, falling to Iowa Western in the District Tourney after winning Region 24.
According to coach Hills, Hull will come in and compete immediately for a spot on a team that returns nearly all of their top hitters from last season.
"We see Ashley being able to come in and compete for a spot because she can play multiple positions," said Hills. "I think we've added some freshmen who can help immediately."
Terre Haute North's Casey Hayne will also be joining the Lakers next season and Hull felt having one of her friends joining the squad as well would help the transition to collegiate volleyball.
"Having a friend going there helps," said the 5'10 hitter. "I made a campus visit and liked the size of the campus and liked the team too."
Those attributes, according to Hull, will help soften the transition to a level of volleyball that undoubtedly will make a big jump.
"I'll need to get used to the competition," said Hull. "In college, all of the girls can really hammer the ball and in high school you don't see that very often."
However, what has helped Hull in regard to the competitive level of college volleyball will be her participation in travel volleyball following the prep season. Hull is currently competing for the Circle City 18 Black Diamonds based in Indianapolis.
"I think (playing travel volleyball) will really help," commented Hull. "We play all over the country and play against teams that have some girls who've committed to play for Division I programs by the time they are sophomores."
Hull's teammates at Northview were no slouches as two of her classmates are already planning to continue their volleyball careers next season in college.
Lottie King received a scholarship to play for the University of Southern Indiana next year while Kaley Huffman plans to join IUPUI's team where she will join former Knight, Christy Fulk.
In his first year as coach of the Northview Knights, Scott McDonald, had the luxury of seeing a great group of talented players go through the program and believes Hull will have success at the next level.
"Having Kaley (Huffman) going to IUPUI and Lottie (King) going to USI and Ashley to Lake Land says a lot about the work they've put in," said McDonald. "They've paid attention to the small details and how every little thing is critical."
McDonald also thinks that coach Hills is getting even more than she bargained for in regards to Hull's talent.
"I think the biggest thing is that (Lake Land) is getting a Division I-type player," assessed McDonald. "She's versatile and can hit from anywhere, basically they are getting three players in one girl."
At Lake Land, Hull will be joining a team that has a wealth of talent from, not just Illinois and Indiana, but outside of the United States as well.
Three of the team's top hitters are all from different countries, including two from South America (Brazil) and one from Serbia.
With Hull and Hayne joining next year's team, Hills believes her 2008 team has a chance at being great. But Hills admits it's still not easy to recruit for a two-year junior college program.
"Next year, we've got a strong freshman class," said Hills. "But it's not easy to sell players on a two-year program. But (being a top-20 team) helps tremendously."
Hull, who plans on majoring in Elementary Education, is excited to be a part of a top program, but realizes there is more work to be done.
"I need to keep working to get better," said Hull. "But my goal is leave the team with a better record than when I came in."
McDonald will obviously miss a talented group of seven seniors that also included Lindsay Thomas, Kyler Clark, Katie Timberman and Cari Laue, but will miss the group as a great group of people too.
"(Ashley) is a great kid," said McDonald. "She's got a great sense of humor and I think she'll do well at the next level."