Ashley Davis is no rookie. This much is made clear within the first thirty seconds of a conversation with her. Clear-minded focus and competitive fire are the words that come to mind when speaking to her about women’s volleyball.
Davis is in her first year as head coach of Madison College’s Wolfpack volleyball team, currently ranked second in the nation. In recent years, the Wolfpack have fielded some of the greatest teams in Junior College history and have become the bedrock of the ever-growing athletic program at Madison College.
As a volleyball coach at the club level for 14 years and an assistant coach at Madison College for more than half a decade, Davis knows what it takes to lead a successful program.
When coach Toby Parker retired last spring, Ashley Davis found herself in a potentially unenviable position. She would be taking over a high-profile program and replacing a coach who had helped guide Madison College to three national championships in the past five years.
A lot of assistant coaches might be a little bit nervous. Maybe wonder what exactly they should do now that they’re in charge.
Ashley Davis knew exactly what she needed to do and was going to do: Win a bunch of games and throw another banner on the wall of Madison College’s Redsten Gymnasium.
Apparently, easing in slowly is for other people.
“The ultimate goal for the season is to get back to nationals,” Coach Davis said. “Our second- year players are the first group not to get to Rochester for nationals. They want to experience what our alumni has. This group hasn’t yet. Our goal is to win the conference, regionals and then head to nationals. So, when I talk about the goals of the program, that hasn’t changed with this transition.”
Last season ended in the Regional Finals for the Wolfpack in a bitter loss to Harper College from Palatine, Il. For Davis, the challenges associated with climbing back to the top of the mountain aren’t just out on the floor. Behind the scenes, as a first-year coach, there are little thing here and there that require her attention that she didn’t have to deal with before. Perhaps foremost among them is how she is perceived by the returning veteran players.
For anyone who has coached on any level, you know the best friend every athlete has on the team is the assistant coach. They get to be the perpetual good cop. Davis said that transition has been the most challenging in terms of navigating old faces in a new role.
“I’ve found out that I need to work on communication with my captains and the expectations,” Davis said. “The returners are used to me as the assistant coach and now I’m the head coach. If I’m having to be a little more stern with them can be a challenge in terms of communication style and how to get that across.”
The Wolfpack are ranked #2 in the nation with a 13-3 overall record and are 4-0 in Conference play so far. They went on a very successful road trip out to Rochester, MN for the Toppers Pizza Invitational where they defeated two nationally ranked Division 2 teams.
On Tuesday Night, The Wolfpack host national #1 Harper College, the defending national champions. Harper College brings with them a 14-3 record and championship rings that many feel should have belonged to Madison College.
It is the fourth consecutive meeting in which Harper College and Madison College are the top two ranked teams in the nation. Last season, Harper swept the Wolfpack in three very hotly contested and bitter outings.
“I think the game tomorrow night is going to be a battle,” Davis said. “It’s going to be a great volleyball game for people to come out and see. I really want our group of players to focus on having fun. It’s number one and two in the country. Both teams will be going all out. Just enjoying the moment is almost half the battle.”
As competitive as Coach Davis is she knows that the experience the kids have is more important than anything else. Madison College has built a family atmosphere when it comes to athletics. Players and coaches have formed relationships that extend well beyond the field of play. Davis said the family atmosphere is something she has enjoyed.
“For every kid who comes to Madison College this is like an extension of their family,” Davis said. “That helps every team be more connected. That’s something I always strive to do. If there is something going on, it’s important for the kids to be able to come to me even if it’s not volleyball related.”
Wolfpack Volleyball, along with women’s soccer and men’s baseball has been the foundation of sports at Madison College. It is not lost on Davis that her girls are at the forefront of representing the school. Davis believes having a women’s sport leading the way sets just the right tone.
“I think it’s really exciting to have a women’s sports program doing so well,” Davis said. “I see that one of my key roles as a female coach is to show my players they can be in leadership roles. Having a program that’s at the forefront of the athletic program also helps with that. It has been nice to kind of bring light to the sport of volleyball and for the city of Madison our program is doing well, Wisconsin’s program is doing well. I’ve already started recruiting for 2018 and bringing in strong players.”
The two top teams in the nation go head to head at 6 pm tonight night at Madison College’s Truax building. For Ashley Davis it will be a chance to see how the team performs in a high stakes game under her leadership.
First year or not, Davis is ready to see results right now.