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#TGW: On a Mission

Aug. 18, 2014

By Jon Cooper
The Good Word

– In less than a month, Ashley Askin has gone through two-a-day practice sessions, testing her skills against players with years more college experience, and the demands of balancing Division I volleyball with Georgia Tech-level academics.

Waiting for her to blink?

Pull up a seat and a good book. You may be waiting a while.

The freshman outside hitter from Louisville, Ky., has shown she can handle whatever curve life may throw her, especially if it messes with her plans — and she does have plans.

“I want to start and play as a freshman. I want to have a role on the team and ultimately win,” she said as far as personal goals for her freshman season.

That’s nice. Of course, that also makes her the same as the other three freshmen on the roster and her other 12 teammates.

What sets Askin apart is the mission that drives her off the court.

“I want to be a biomedical engineer,” she said. “I have type 1 diabetes. So that’s kind of my link to it. I want to be able to help others with diabetes. That’s a very interesting field to come up with new technologies. It’s something that I wanted to do.”

Askin has learned to deal with type 1 diabetes, where the body is unable to naturally produce insulin — something that affects only about five percent of those with the disease — and is counting on her coursework at Georgia Tech to help her take the first steps in helping others deal with it.

“Basically, my thing growing up was, you can’t let the disease hold you back,” she said. “You can do anything and you can’t let others look at you like, `Oh, you have to go easy.’ You have to fight the disease. You can’t let it fight you.”

No one who has seen Askin play has ever questioned her fight.

“Ashley is a great competitor,” said Tech first-year coach Michelle Collier, who sees Askin getting time in both pins. “It’s great to see a young woman so mature about her conditions and not letting that become an excuse to chase her dreams and do what she loves! We can all learn from her.”

“She’s a very intense player but she always has a smile on her face and she knows how to win,” said sophomore libero/defensive specialist London Ackermann, who played club ball for two years (2010, 2011) with Askin on powerhouse Kentucky-Indiana Volleyball Academy (KIVA). “We come from a club that has taught us that and has bred us in that.”

Learning how to win and handle adversity actually was bred into Askin long before she played with KIVA, or even touched a volleyball. Credit for that goes to her parents, father John Askin and mother Denise. John was a four-year starter at offensive line for Notre Dame (1983-86) before playing two years with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, while Denise, who went by Denise Basford, was a point guard for four years for the Fighting Irish (`82-86).

“Our whole family is very, very athletic,” said Ashley, the third of four children — she has two sisters (one older one younger) and an older brother. “Basically they just kind of taught me what they learned — always work hard, pay your dues. The big thing was if you put the time in and the effort in you’ll get the results. They didn’t push me to play any sport. I was the first one in my family to play volleyball. So I kind of found it, liked it, fell in love.”

Askin’s passion showed in club, where she starred with KIVA and in high school at Sacred Heart Academy, where the Valkyries won district championships in 2012 and 2013. Askin was named all-region in 2013 and all-district in 2012, in addition to earning three first-team all-Catholic selections and a pair of first-team all-state selections. In the classroom she earned four all-state academic awards and was National Honor Society and Beta Club. Askin got a place on the AVCA Phenom List in 2012 and in 2013 was an Under Armour All-American.

But her vision has never been limited to the court. From an early age she showed she could see the big picture and was a problem-solver. She showed that in fifth grade.

“I went to Children’s Congress and represented Kentucky as the delegate,” she recalled. “One of the things they had there was this ESPN panel. We all had to write down questions that we wanted to ask an athlete. I was big into basketball then so I wanted to ask the basketball player, `What do you do if you go low in a game? Do you have a hand-signal or something with the coach? What do you do?’

“They picked my question and they asked each athlete,” she continued. “They all had their own different little things that they did to let their coach know how they were doing during the game. Afterward, ESPN panel people were like, `Maybe we’ll see you on ESPN one day.’ From then on I was like, `I can do this.’ So that’s my goal.”

The goal of being on ESPN will actually be accomplished in short order, as Askin and the Yellow Jackets will be on ESPN3 on Sept. 19 (vs. Georgia) and 20 (vs. Alabama A&M, Southern Miss., and Kennesaw State) in the Georgia Tech Invitational, then Oct. 3 (vs. Florida State), Oct. 17 (vs. Pittsburgh) and Oct. 24 (vs. Syracuse).

But a bigger goal for this season comes in a pair of games that won’t be televised: Sept. 28, at Louisville and Oct. 31, at Notre Dame.

“I’ve circled Louisville and Notre Dame because those are my two closest to home and my big connections,” she said. “I’m very excited to play Louisville because they just joined the ACC and that’s my hometown. I was heavily recruited there. So that’s one of my goals. I want to beat Louisville. That’s the first thing on my agenda. I want to beat them.”

As she’s proven, not much stops Askin from getting what she wants.

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