For Casa Grande High School senior Ashley Harris, 2012 was quite a year and 2013 will be even better.
Before the old year had passed away, Harris had led the Casa Grande High School volleyball team into the quarterfinals of the North Coast Section playoffs and solidified her reputation as one of the best volleyball players ever in the Redwood Empire. Before 2013 has run its course, she will be playing for the University of Arizona.
Harris says deciding to accept Arizona's scholarship offer was really pretty easy.
"I love the coaching staff," she says. "They fit my style and personality."
It also helped that she had a very good friend, Aubrey McKinley, already at the college.
I want to play in the Pac-12," she adds. "I want to play on the highest level possible. I'm very competitive."
Volleyball honors are nothing new for Harris. She is already a two-time All-Redwood Empire choice and is certain to be a pick for that honor again this season, but she stepped it up a notch when she was chosen to the High School All-America first team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association, marking her as one of the top 100 players in the country.
Harris says she was impressed with the Arizona campus, especially the area that is most important to her."I loved the gym," she explains. "That is where I'm going to be."
The gym is where Harris has spent much of her time during her high school career at Casa Grande, as she worked hard to become an all-around player who not only dominates the net, but also sets, receives serves and digs. "I work pretty hard," she acknowledges. "I play year round and do a lot of weight lifting and conditioning behind the scenes."
At 6-feet, 7-inches tall, Harris could control the front line on most high school teams on size alone, but she is an excellent all-around player who can jump and has put in a lot of time to develop her court techniques, playing year round in high school and with the prestigious Empire Volleyball Club.
She has been working on her game since starting the sport at Kenilworth Junior High School in the seventh grade. She missed her freshman high school season because of a broken foot, but the injury only motivated her to work harder. The result is a chance to play at the highest collegiate level, and she is anxious to get started. Her college career begins on July 8 when she is scheduled to be on the Arizona campus.
But before then, there is still some high school to enjoy, things like the senior prom and graduation. "I'm not going to rush things," she says.
She plans to major in business at Arizona, and will take an excellent academic record with her to the next education level. This semester, she is earning an A in four of her five classes.
If there is one person happier about her step into the college ranks than the athlete, it may well be her father and biggest fan Rogae Harris.
"My dad is the proudest, most supportive and happiest dad in the world," she says.
Harris is also supported by her mother, Jeanne Young, and step-father Chris Young.