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The turnout for volleyball at New Albany High on Tuesday far exceeded the expectations of many, as 52 girls showed up to learn fundamentals and are working toward being a part of the inaugural team next fall.
“For the last two to three years, we’ve been trying to add volleyball, but it’s tough to add with the budget cuts in the state,” NAHS Athletic Director Shane Sanderson said. “The administration gave us the okay to add it for next year, and with the number of girls that showed up this week, they showed that we made a great choice.”
Coach Lashay Ashford worked with girls at the junior high on Monday and with the high school on Tuesday and is excited for the opportunity to be the person starting the program at the school.
Ashford coached at Columbus High for two years before taking a job with the Tupelo School District, teaching physical education.
“I was at Columbus my first years out of college, teaching and coaching, and it was a great group of girls,” she said. “Volleyball is not very known in that area, so we had to focus on fundamentals, and I saw improvement with them. I hate I had to leave them, and I don’t like to see coaches leave schools after only a couple of years just because you have someone else coming in then, trying to change the technique. I’m hoping to be here a while. The girls seem extremely interested in volleyball, and we’ll need to focus on technique and I just want to get this town, this area excited about the sport.”
Ashford was a standout in both volleyball and basketball at Tupelo High, leading the Lady Wave to its first state title in volleyball in 2001. That same year, she was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state, but chose to play basketball in college at the University of North Alabama. Sanderson is excited about having someone of Ashford’s caliber heading up the program.
“She came in and really impressed us,” Sanderson said of Ashford. “She is everything we were looking for, and she was a tremendous player herself and shows great potential for heading up this program. I’m grateful to the administration and school board for being on board with this, allowing us to make such a great hire.”
Sanderson said the team will go right into division play next year, competing in Class I, Region 2 along with Lafayette, Senatobia, Water Valley, Byhalia and two-time defending champion Lewisburg.