During her first year at UVA, Simone Asque pounded opponents with such force and regularity that she was named to the ACC All-Freshman team. During her second year, Asque’s game improved, and she paid the price of excellence.
“All the teams would send two blockers over to my side of the court right away,” says Asque (Col ‘12). “It made it a lot more difficult.”
Last year, any teams trying the same tactic found themselves pounded from other directions, most notably from first-year McKenzie Adams (Col ‘14). The two became the first Cavalier duo since 2007 to reach 20 kills each in one match (against Clemson), and Adams’ 29 kills in that game broke UVA’s single-match record for a first-year student. Adams went on to reap statewide and conference honors, including being the first Cavalier to be named NCAA East Region Freshman of the Year.
The accomplishments were all the more impressive because Adams missed the first five matches after injuring an ankle in a preseason conditioning drill. It wasn’t the way she wanted to start her career at UVA.
“It was frustrating. I’ve always wanted to go out there and do my best,” Adams says. “I had some rough moments, but you’ve got to work hard to get back and work even harder to be able to play. All of the other players were there for me.”
That includes Asque. She not only valued Adams’ role in bringing balance to the team, but she could also relate to Adams’ adversity in her own way. Asque watched her mother successfully battle breast cancer; she also watched an aunt die from it. The experience strengthened her as a leader, she says.
“It definitely inspires me a lot. I think of myself and I’m just playing a game and my mom was fighting to live,” Asque says. “It’s sometimes an extra push; I think ‘My mom beat cancer; I can’t be a wimp.’”
Few would make such an accusation—Asque plays with fist-pumping intensity. Her high-voltage approach serves to spark the team and power her own game.
“I’m a very aggressive hitter; I hit the ball very hard,” she says. “A lot of that has come through acquired strength over the years, but also a lot of my coaches, including Lee [Maes], have stressed using my speed and athleticism to bear down.”
Adams shares the same strength—an uncanny knack for pinpoint kill shots—but both athletes know their games need balance. When Asque tried out for the Canadian team this summer (she lives in Chicago), the coaches there emphasized improving her passing, an area Adams says she needs to upgrade as well.
Balance will be the byword for the team this coming season, as the team seems poised to improve on last year’s 14-16 record. With players like all-state hitter Jessica O’Shoney (Col ‘13) feeding the attack, the Cavaliers will benefit from distributing the ball to exploit openings in the opposition.
“When you have so much diversity like we do and so many great players like we do,” Adams says, “it’s hard to be able to just think, ‘Oh you need to block this girl—don’t worry about anybody else.’”
For Asque, having those opportunities will be a welcome contrast to her first season.
“If somebody has a hot hand, great, just keep giving the ball to them until the other team stops them,” she says. “And when they do stop them, great, just give it to someone else.”
After this issue of Virginia Magazine went to press, McKenzie Adams withdrew from the volleyball program.