Oct. 14, 2009
Bearcat Volleyball Player Returns to Team More Focused
Rick Dunaway, St. Joseph News-Press
MARYVILLE, Mo. -The road of life took a sharp and unexpected turn two years ago for Northwest Missouri State volleyball player Ashley Mitchell. But with diligence, dedication and perhaps a little lost sleep, Mitchell is reaching her destination.
Recruited as a freshman in 2005 by former coach Lori Slight, Mitchell took a redshirt year. Then as a freshman in 2006, she saw action on the court, recording as many as 11 kills in a match against Alabama-Huntsville.
But then she discovered she was pregnant. It was the turn in the road that could have sent her careening off course.
"Yes, but I think it was a turn for the better. She is the highlight of my life," Mitchell said of her 21-month-old daughter, Arlivia Nicole.
If nothing else, Arlivia's arrival forced Mitchell to refocus her life. And despite the demands of motherhood, Mitchell made a promise to herself that she would stay in school. Volleyball was out of the question, but Mitchell remained a part-time student, continuing toward her goal of a Bachelor of Science degree in corporate recreation. Then, at the end of last season, Mitchell decided it was time to return to the court.
"I always knew in the back of my mind that I would come back, but the timing had to be on point," Mitchell said.
She went through all of the offseason training and worked hard over the summer. And she continued her classes, this time as a full-time student. Interim Northwest head coach Allison Rogers said Mitchell came back this fall with a vengeance.
"Ashley has such an aggressive attitude on the court, and it's great," Rogers said. "It's not in any way, shape or form a bad thing. She is definitely one of those players that comes out to win every time she steps foot on the court."
She carries that attitude off the court as well.
Mitchell, from Davenport, Iowa, admits there are nights that she goes without sleep, despite having to get through classes and practice the next day. But she trudges on.
"I knew that was going to happen before I walked through the door," Mitchell said.
Arlivia usually wakes her mother up around 7 a.m., and after a bath and breakfast together, it's off to day care. After a day of classes and volleyball practice, Mitchell picks up her daughter late in the afternoon.
"She usually wants to play outside, and we have a little activity time. I may read to her," Mitchell said. "I don't cook dinner; usually it's something quick but healthy."
Bedtime for Arlivia isn't nearly as early as Mitchell would like.
"The whole bedtime thing is kind of rough right now," Mitchell admitted. "I had a system worked out, and it just kind of went down the drain."
Arlivia usually goes to bed anywhere between 10 p.m. and midnight. If Mitchell gets to the point that she's exhausted, she will bring her to bed with her.
"If anybody else is put in this situation, I can't see them getting through it the way she does," Rogers said.
Mitchell said she does it all with little involvement from Arlivia's father, whose participation waned after the first few months.
"Now it's kind of like a 'when-he-wants-to type thing,'" Mitchell said. "But I've learned I'd rather do it by myself at this point. It's just a lot less stressful."
Mitchell instead has found her support system in coaches and teammates. While she's been an irregular attendee at practice, Arlivia shows up at most games, where she quickly becomes the center of attention.
"They have spoiled her," Mitchell said. "Let's just say that when I'm around them, there's no discipline involved, because everything is funny to them."
Added Rogers, "We've just taken to her like she's one of us. She's our little mascot, and she's Ashley's No. 1 fan. It's great to have her around. She's a great kid."
Mitchell is a sophomore in athletic eligibility but already a senior academically. The right-side hitter plans to continue playing volleyball for the next three years while she pursues her master's degree. Not just for herself but for her daughter, as well.
For more information, please contact:
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