Cedar volleyball’s own Ashley Vanfleet has tears welling in her eyes as she listens to her mother, Kim Vanfleet, speak. “I’m from Cambodia…” is how Kim begins before continuing to share the difficulties and challenges of growing up in her home country. Kim goes on by addressing her desires for Ashley and the rest of her children. “I love my kids very much, and want them to have the opportunities I never had. I just want to support her [Ashley] in everything she does.” Kim’s voice cracks with emotion, “I love Ashley so much.”
The youngest of four children, Ashley found herself watching her two older sisters Vanessa (who has assisted/coached Ashley since the age of 12) and Jessica play Volleyball. “I’m a visual learner, and watching my sisters play for so long, I could see early how things were supposed to move during the game. I feel it helps me anticipate the game better when I am out there playing.”
From a young age, exposure to volleyball developed into a sure love for the game.
Ashley somehow balances her academic schedule, boasting a 3.9 GPA, an athletic schedule filled with practice, training, games, and a job working at her local Dairy Queen. Referring to her job, Ashley says, “It’s a lot of fun. You get to see and meet friendly people. I just love working there.” And on top of all of that, Ashley finds time to engage in outside activities. Occasionally, you may find her with family or friends out hiking, as she loves the outdoor views and atmosphere that Cedar City displays.
9th Grade MVP – 10th Grade MVP Varsity – 11th Grade Most Valuable – All Around Player Varsity
As a freshman, Ashley explains her most memorable moment taking the floor during a Varsity game. Even though it was for a single play, and one that only lasted a short time, she was fortunate enough to score for the Lady Reds. “It’s a point and I’m going to count it,” Ashley says with her contagious smile.
Vanfleet’s first real taste at the Varsity level came with its share of challenges. An ankle injury acquired in a match against Dixie proved to be very difficult, mentally and physically. “I went up to block their middle, then came down hard on my ankle rolling in, and almost immediately made things worse by over-correcting in the opposite direction.” After what felt like, “a long two weeks,” Ashley and her family learned the extent of her injury. X-rays revealed small bone fragments that would leave Ashley sidelined for her team’s remaining three games of the season.
Whether minor or severe, athletes experience injuries that highlight physical limitations. The most dedicated athletes however, always find a way to compete, even if it’s from the sidelines. “I never want to let my teammates down, and an injury can sometimes do that. But if I can find a way to encourage and cheer on my team to push through any challenge, then I know we will be okay.”
Cedar volleyball Coach, Oscar Fakahua, has deliberately taught his Lady Reds what it means to believe, and Ashley has gone all in with her coach’s philosophy. “We just need to always believe that we can win. When we believe we can, we do well.” With a strong combination of belief and support in one another, Ashley and her team are a force to be reckoned with. “I love playing with these girls. They are a lot of fun to be around, and I’m lucky that way I guess.” Ashley’s leadership quality has resulted in her feeling responsible to do all she can to help her team be successful. “Sometimes everything isn’t going to go our way, but we just have to work with what we have and hope for the best.”
“Ashley Vanfleet is one of the best girls I know, on and off the court. She is one of the most talented players, but also humble. She is always looking out for her teammates and doing what is best for the team. Ashley has always been someone that I know I and many others look up to. She doesn’t have to have the loudest voice on the court to be heard because she leads by example. I think I speak for the entire team when I say she is one of the best.” – Natalie Evans
David Vanfleet, Ashley’s father, shared a proud moment he had while watching his youngest of three girls play the game she loves. “There was a game where the opposing team hit the ball over the net, but it was called out by the referee. Ashley then walked up to the ref and said, “I tipped it”, resulting in the Lady Reds losing a point. As Mr. Vanfleet shared this experience, Ashley’s emotion could be felt from listening to her father express his feelings. David continues, “That impressed me. Her honesty and integrity impressed me.” After asking Ashley how she felt about what it meant giving up a point she said, “I always want to win, but I am not going to cheat to get there. That is never worth it, and it makes me feel good to know that my parents are proud of me.”
Ashley has goals in mind for her last year of high school, wanting to seriously compete and do well during State. After being asked what advice she would like to leave behind for her teammates following her graduation, Ashley advised, “Have fun while you play. Yeah it’s important to win, but when it comes right down to it, there are more important things in life. Just have fun and leave it all out there.” Entering her final season with the teammates she loves, Ashley looks to close her high school athletic career doing all that she can to support her Lady Reds. Safe to say, Cedar volleyball is in good hands this year. • HSSI