2017 TELEGRAM ALL-AREA VOLLEYBALL: Brackett's subtraction adds to her game
BY JESSIE H. NUNERY
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Senior years are stressful enough, and before Ashlee Brackett set foot on Northern Nash's campus this season, she knew a decision needed to be made.
She had spent the past 15 years learning various forms of dance.
As a sixth grader, she fell in love with volleyball.
Her father played college basketball, and her older brother played at Northern Nash, and when she arrived on campus four years ago, she too played the sport.
Accomodating everything and everyone became too much. Brackett decided she would become solely a volleyball player, and in the process, she became the Twin Counties' best athlete in the sport, earning the Telegram's 2017 All-Area Player of the Year honor.
"At some point, it became a rush," Brackett said. "I was missing a lot of dance for basketball, and it was hard to do travel tournaments. I felt like I was letting other people down while helping other people at the same time."
Brackett drew partly on family support in making her decision. Her brother, Michael, played tennis and basketball. Michael also gave up basketball for the end of his prep career to focus on tennis.
"He told me he definitely missed playing, — and I do to — but it was better individually for his future," Brackett said. "I had to look at that too when making my decision."
Northern Nash benefitted from Brackett's focus. During the summer she challenged herself by attending a camp at Elon where the 5-foot-10 middle hitter played against some past and present Phoenix players as well as some prospects.
She returned to a Northern Nash team that was short on experience, but featured a versatile player in Brackett who finished with 109 kills and 112 blocks.
Her game has constantly improved each season, but Knights coach Patricia Haggerty said that was because Brackett took the initiative to improve.
"She was very good as a freshman and one of the few during my tenure that has played at the varsity level," Haggerty said. "I saw a lot of development between her sophomore and junior year, and she has developed into a well-rounded volleyball player."
Brackett hasn't given up everything, but basketball did take a backseat. She noticed the time required doing some of the same activities as a middle school student was much less than that necessary of a high school student.
And she was doing it at a school that she has come to love after four years of watching her brother compete.
"Sometimes you can overdo it, doing so many things," her father, John, said. "She was able to get away doing all those things and do it pretty well. From a coach's perspective, if volleyball was something she was looking to do down the road, this is probably the best decision to make and it's worked out fine for her."
There looks to be some benefit from the specialization. She has an offer from Averett University to play next season, but the lure of attending Elon to major in broadcasting is also a possibility.
Until then, she'll continue dancing on a dialed back basis and keep up with school clubs such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, National Honor Society and the school's mentoring program.
It's not easy giving up everything one loves about a school they've been around for the past eight years.
"It's crazy to think it's almost over," Brackett said. "It's grown as a family for me since Michael was there. It will be hard to let that go."