Spotlight on Volleyball
Ashley Dean came to Dartmouth to make a difference.
Coming from Southern California, the hotbed of volleyball, Dean might easily have opted for a college career on the West Coast. There was, however, a fundamental problem that couldn't be overcome.
For all her talent and court sense, at 5-9 she was giving away 4-5 inches to the best West Coast players. "They play the game above the net," she says. "I can't."
So, instead of a likely role as a reserve at a West Coast college, she applied early decision to Dartmouth where she could gain an appreciation for fall foliage and snow while becoming an impact player in a sport that is building its place in the East and in the Ivy League.
It's a decision that's working exactly as she - and Coach Ann Marie Larese - hoped.
"Ash is the most complete player I've coached at Dartmouth," says Larese. "She comes from a family of outstanding athletes (her mother, Kathy, was a nationally ranked tennis player).
"Even though Ash is one of our shortest starters, she has great court sense and knows where to place the ball. She makes difficult plays look easy."
The junior from La Jolla, Calif. grew up playing soccer and softball. Encouraged by her older brother, who played volleyball at Stanford and became her partner in beach volleyball, she turned exclusively to volleyball by her sophomore year.
As a senior, her volleyball skills earned her recognition as La Jolla High's female athlete of the year.
"I love volleyball," she says, "but I think I was a better soccer player. I had played soccer since I was five. I guess I just burned out."
Dean came to the fore late in her freshman season at Dartmouth, averaging 13 digs over the last 10 games, including 30 against Princeton in the Ivy League tourney.
As a sophomore, Dean set a Dartmouth season record for digs (476) that ranked 12th in the nation and, as the Green's outside hitter, she led the team with 348 kills.
It was an effort that earned her All-Ivy first team selection.
Dean is the co-captain of this fall's team with Jessica Wirth, the 6-2 middle blocker and the only senior on the squad.
"Jess is more vocal," says Larese. "Ash is steady on the court. She has a great ability to read the play and react. She's the player that opponents want to wear down. She and Jess give us good balance on a team that has mostly freshmen and sophomores."
A government major-Spanish minor, Dean is a cornerstone for Larese's team that is in the middle of the increasingly competitive Ivy League ranks.
"We're a young team but we have a good group of athletes," says Dean, as the Green moves into the heart of the Ivy season. "I hope we have a strong learning curve."
As the "leader by example," Dean is making the difference she hoped would define her athletic experience at Dartmouth. As Larese says, "Her mark on our program will stand for a long time." (Jack DeGange)
Ashley Dean's recruiting trip to Dartmouth was made possible by the generosity of Frederick M. Rothenberg '64 and Robert A. Gunst '69 through the Athletic Sponsor Program.