Ashley Jones was an eighth-grader the first time Hallsville High School head volleyball coach Cara Collum saw her on the court.
“She started coming to open gym as an eight-grader, and I still remember seeing her play, how she handled the ball and thinking those skills were so far above her age level,” Collum said.
Jones, who is heading into her senior season, has more than lived up to the early expectations, and the Lady Bobcat senior has been named Most Valuable Player on the first East Texas Preseason Volleyball Dream Team.
“She’s a joy to coach,” Collum said of her setter. “She’s fun and light-hearted and a good teammate. I’m glad we have her for another year. She’s a humble kid who doesn’t worry about awards and accolades. She just loves to play volleyball.”
Jones, who has given a verbal pledge to Louisiana Tech, has recorded 3,200 assists, 238 aces and 443 digs in her three varsity seasons. Despite being the team’s setter, she’s also a threat at the net – a quality Collum credits to her overall knowledge of the game.
“She has always been a huge threat for us with the setter dunk. She just knows where the opponents are and aren’t, and she knows the right time to give it a try. She loves the game. Her mom played in college (SFA), and I just think she’s had a volleyball in her hands for so long she understands the game and has incredible ball control you just don’t normally see.”
And, it started early.
As a freshman, Jones was the Longview News-Journal’s All-East Texas Newcomer of the Year after recording 1,088 assists, 171 digs, 39 aces and 27 blocks and serving at 92.8% clip.
“She was our 5-1 setter as a freshman,” Collum said. “She just jumped right in there with the older girls and has turned heads everywhere we’ve played. Officials, other coaches, parents and countless other people after tournaments and games comment on how talented she is.”
Jones had 1,129 assists, 113 aces, 30 blocks, 129 digs nad 119 kills as a junior in 2018 and finished with 983 assists, 86 aces, 184 kills, 143 digs and 45 blocks as a junior a year ago – earning district co-MVP, first team All-East Texas and Texas Sports Writers Association all-state second team honors.
Hallsville finished 30-13 overall and 13-1 in district play last season and has a combined record of 88-33 in Jones’ three varsity seasons.