Last October, Taylor Ashcraft suddenly had 500 miles between her friends and her new life in Cumming, Ga. She’d just moved from All Saints Academy, a small Episcopal private school in Winter Haven, Fla., with 550 students, to West Forsyth. She had left All Saints too soon to finish the season with her volleyball team and too late to join West.
But Ashcraft already had a plan in place to fill the lull. Before her family even moved, Ashcraft made trips to Georgia for tryouts with A5 Pure Volleyball, one of the premier junior club volleyball organizations in the state. As soon as the high school season ended, Ashcraft would jump into A5’s season and be back on the court.
"It definitely keeps me on the court every season so it’s not just high school where I have to play," Ashcraft said. "… It’s just pushing me further and further in my volleyball career."
And it’s helped Ashcraft quickly emerge as one of the top players this season in Forsyth County. The junior entered Tuesday’s matches with 74 kills, 81 digs and 39 aces to help West get off to a 14-0 start after going 18-25 last season. The Lady Wolverines won the Forsyth Challenge this past Saturday for the first time in program history.
"That meant a lot," Ashcraft said. "Just to be able to get out to such a great start and be able to get our names out there. This is who we are, and we are good this season."
Ashcraft was an all-county player at outside hitter two seasons ago as a freshman at All Saints. She had 140 aces, five short of the school record, and helped her team win a district championship.
She was on her way to another stellar season last year when her family moved to Georgia. Instead, she left friends behind into an unknown situation at West.
"It was [hard] at first," Ashcraft said, "but you just have to get used to it after a while. You just have to get acclimated to everyone – new school, new friends, new volleyball teams."
Ashcraft had started playing club volleyball in fifth grade and knew she needed to get plugged into a team in Georgia. She knew of A5 Pure Volleyball from watching them at tournaments around the Southeast with her Orlando Volleyball Academy team.
She’d developed into the player she is now from the club schedule that stretches throughout the offseason right up until the week before the start of the high school season. It’s become the standard method for the most ambitious high school volleyball players to get exposure in front of college coaches and improve their skills.
But for Ashcraft, it also helped her transition to a new state.
"It was kind of one more thing I could do to be involved with something," Ashcraft said. "Being at volleyball practice was better than being at home thinking about all my friends that I didn’t have anymore. It was kind of a positive refresher. It’s just … a lifestyle."
She’s translated that lifestyle to here now, where she and West believe they’ve become a legitimate contender.
"I think state is definitely a possibility," Ashcraft said. "I think we’re all just pushing for that."