Ashley Fehr has paid her dues now she’s looking to take over as the starting setter with the two-time defending national champion RDC volleyball Queens.
The last two seasons the 19-year-old Innisfail native played behind Bronwyn Hawkes, who was among the elite college setters in the country.
It’s Fehr’s attitude and maturity that made it easy for her to wait her time to take over as the starter.
“When I first met with Talbot (head coach Walton) I knew I’d be here for a longer term and I knew I’d be behind Bronwyn, but that was fine. It was great learning from her. I had the opportunity to play and I wasn’t disappointed the way the last two years went. What I learned and the experience was definitely positive.”
Plus the Queens won the national championship both years.
“You can’t be disappointed with that,” she said.
Fehr played 14 sets her first year with the Queens and 20 last year. She finished last season with 135 assists, 25 digs, seven blocks and four aces.
But while the playing time was fine, it was what she learned at practice that was most beneficial.
“It”s really competitive at practice,” she said. “I could have went to a less skilled team and started, but it was to my advantage to play with and against the best players in Canada every day. That was rewarding.
This year is no different. Walton has brought in several of the top recruits in the province and added others with ACAC experience, such as setter Maegan Kuzyk, who was with the NAIT Ooks the last two seasons.
“Bronwyn and I were able to push each other in practice and that’s the same this year with Maegan,” she said. “Talbot’s practices are always high level and competitive.”
Fehr and Kuzyk both have experience, but have different skill sets. Fehr, at five-foot-10, is strong at the net and also knows the RDC system inside and out. Kuzyk is smaller and strong in the back row.
Fehr looks back over the last two seasons and can see what she learned the most.
“I learned about the game and looking at it in a different perspective. Talbot talks about volleyball IQ and I know that’s changed for me over the last two seasons, plus physical training. That was something I didn’t concentrate on as much prior to coming to college. I also learned a lot about running an offence.”
Running an offence means knowing, not only what her teammates strengths are, but seeing what the other team is trying to do on defence.
“I have to see their blockers and understand what they’re trying to do and try to run the offence away from their strengths. There are a lot of different things I can do and that comes with experience.”
Fehr has always been around volleyball with her two older sisters playing the game.
“I was always following them around and carrying a volleyball,” she said.
“In elementary and middle school I played other sports, but once I got into the club program I concentrated strictly on volleyball.”
She played volleyball in school but joined the U13 club program in Red Deer. She switched to the Calgary Jr. Dinos for U16 and U17 and played her U18 season in Lacombe.
“There were some coaches I wanted to work with, especially with the Dinos, then my last year of club I was tired of driving to Calgary four or five times a week and I knew some girls in Lacombe so finished there,” she explained.
Fehr is working on her education degree and if things work out where she can get into the middle years program she will be at RDC for two more years.
While Fehr is busy with her schooling and the Queens she also takes time to volunteer as a coach with her home town.
“I find coaching a lot of fun and not only can I give something back, but it’s something I can stay involved in as I get older and won’t be playing.”
But her attention now is mainly on taking the Queens back to the national championship. She is one of the team leaders and with a number of first-year players she needs to take a major role in helping them adapt.
“There could be pressure, but I think the rookies are excited and Talbot is a great coach and they will learn a lot, just at practice.”
One thing Walton, and veterans, stress is mental strength.
“That’s something we practice and we go by the term ‘don’t be the first to flinch’,” she said.
“That’s our system and our belief and we can all help the (new) girls buy into that.”
The RDC teams are off this weekend but will open their regular season Oct. 16 and 17 at home against Medicine Hat.