Niles’ Ashley Love is a four-year starter and a three-time Big 16 Conference All-West Division selection for the Vikings. (Leader photo/SCOTT NOVAK)

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Love is all around for Niles volleyball

Published 9:49pm Thursday, October 18, 2012

For three-plus seasons, the Niles volleyball team has felt the love.

That’s Ashley Love, of course.

The senior standout is enjoying one of her best seasons and so are the Vikings.

Niles defeated St. Joseph 3-2 to improved to 26-10-5 and finished third in the Big 16 Conference West Division standings.

Love has been a standout for the Vikings since she joined the team her freshman season. She is a three-time Big 16 All-West Division selection and is most certainly in line for the honor again this season.

Earlier this year she became one of only a handful of Niles players to eclipse the 1,000 career kills plateau.

Love said that part of the success of this year’s squad and why she is having so much fun playing volleyball is her teammates.

“The entire team is working together,” she said. “Our coach is always encouraging us. It’s a whole new atmosphere this year.”

The change in attitude in the program has also changed the way she approaches the game.

“It has made me more of a team player,” Love said. “We all have our own voice on this team.”

Coming into her senior season, Love was a little apprehensive about how well the team would do since at the end of the 2011 season long-time coach Linda Martin submitted her resignation.

Niles did not hire a new coach until just before the start of this season. Jenny Nate came on board and it didn’t take long for Love to see it was going to be a good fit for everyone.

“I knew we were going to have a younger team, so I didn’t know what to expect,” Love said. “But I had a pretty good idea of how things were going to go after just a couple of practices.”

Love had no idea she was near 1,000 kills for her career mainly because she doesn’t really set personal goals. She is more content with team goals and “doing the best that I can do.”

She notes that one of the keys to the Vikings’ success is 2012 has been keeping things off the court and that don’t have anything to do with volleyball.

“There has been no drama this year,” she said. “We keep all that stuff off the court. ”

Among the team goals are to finish in the top part of the Big 16 Conference and to win a district championship.

Both goals are clearly within Niles’ grasp this season.

Nate knew plenty about Love before she took the job, both on the court and in the classroom. She knew she had a quality player she was going to be able to count on to help lead the Vikings this season.

“She is imperative to its success,” she said. “Absolutely imperative to the girls, to me, to the whole team in fact. She is one of the best leaders I’ve ever had the privilege to coach.”

Among her attributes are the fact that she is a very positive person who remains focused at all times.

“I have never, ever seen her get down,” Nate said. “Not in the classroom, and I have taught her for two years, not on the court and not out in the community. She is very even keeled. She’s not a screamer. She’s a strong leader who is consistent. I can count on her here, in school or anything I need done, Ashley will get it done.”

Love is one of two seniors on the Niles squad this season. The other is standout setter Cortney Shirrell.

Nate said the two of them are a huge part of the Vikings’ success this season.

“They are both just phenomenal,” she said.

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