In February, former Sonora Wildcat star Ashley Pittman phoned Christina Lore, the eight-year head volleyball coach of Stanislaus State.
You need a libero?
"I'm good friends with Christina and know what that phone call meant to
her," said Sonora Wildcat head volleyball coach Kim Evans. "Christina
had been following Ashley since she was a sophomore at Sonora. It was a
great surprise to Christina to get that call but also a great feeling
of excitement, too."
"Well," said Lore, "I had talked to Ashley after she had graduated from
Sonora (2010) and it just wasn't the right fit at that time for her. I
had no problem with that. But to get that call a few years later from
her? I said, 'Sure, come on down for a tryout.' "
On March 1, Lore, her assistant coach and five other Stanislaus players
fired spikes and fast serves at Pittman for close to two hours.
"My nerves sure would have been high with a one-day tryout like that,"
said Evans. "Stanislaus plays in one of the top NCAA Division II
conferences in the nation (California Collegiate Athletic Association).
Christina runs a great program. It's a tough place to try and make the
team. But, then again, we're talking about Ashley Pittman here: She's
tough, she can pass nails and you can't find a harder worker."
"Ashley did great on the court," said Lore. "I really liked the way she
was moving. Plus she has this presence on the court that's very
important. But that was only a small part of the tryout."
"I was pretty nervous knowing that it was only a one-day tryout," said
Pittman. "But I've been playing volleyball for a long time and I do
know the game for the most part so I was OK once we got going on the
"But the most interesting thing was what came afterwards: I kept
getting peppered with all these personality-type of questions by
Christina and her assistant coach while we walked around the campus. I
had no idea what all these questions were for - and there were a lot of
them. And when they were done questioning me, she said, 'OK, we're
gonna take all your answers back to the other players on our team and
see if you fit in.' So then I was really nervous: Had I said anything
"This year, because we have such a young team," said Lore, "personality
is the most important part to me. We need to have a team that will
blend well together. So that is why, when we were done working out with
Ashley, I had asked her lots and lots of personality-type questions."
"But, of course, personality is the biggest strength of Ashley
Pittman's," said Evans. "She's honest, honorable, humble, a great
leader and a great friend."
Just days later, Lore called and asked Pittman to join the Stanislaus State Warriors.
"It actually turned out to be quite an easy decision for us," said
Lore. "Ashley has that type of personality we're looking for. The fact
that she is so talented was the icing on the cake. We wanted her."
As Lore very well knew, Sac State was also courting Pittman.
"But this decision for me was easy," said Pittman. "I liked Coach
Lore's approach to things. She's very intense, which is perfect for me.
She's honest. She didn't over-promise. She just stated the facts: That
she has five defensive specialists, I'm one of them, three of us will
travel, and I'll have a legitimate shot to prove myself and earn the
starting libero spot."
"Ashley was a fantastic libero for us last season and I have no doubt
that she will rise to the occasion at Stanislaus State, too," said
Gabby Houston, Cabrillo College's three-year head volleyball coach.
"The first day I saw her play, I thought, 'Wow! We have someone very
special here.' "
After playing her freshman year at Dominican College - "That wasn't a
bad experience," said Pittman, "it just wasn't what I was looking for"
- Pittman moved to Santa Cruz County, quickly cracked Cabrillo's
starting lineup, was named team captain and led the Seahawks to a No. 4
finish in State, 28-3 overall record and Coast Conference championship.
Along the way, Pittman earned First-Team Honors in the
highly-competitive Delta Classic Tournament.
"There is absolutely no way we could have enjoyed the success we had
last season without Ashley," said Houston. "She never came off the
court. She was so serious - which I loved - and so dedicated towards
making her teammates and herself better. She was the team leader, and
she was so smart in the way she approached each game."
"Gabby would preach to me that, as a libero, I was her 'Traffic
controller,' " says Pittman. "I embraced that. I would be responsible
for knowing where the opposing blockers were, where they were likely to
go, and tell our hitters where to hit. And then on defense, I had to
know where their hitters were, guess where they wanted to hit - and be
correct. You do have to be a bit of a mind reader to be an effective
Which may explain in part why Pittman may add Psychology as a double
major. She has been majoring these past two school years in
"I've always had an interest in physical therapy," said Pittman, "but
I've been thinking a lot lately about Psychology - particularly Sports
Pittman carries the same tenacity she has on the volleyball court into
the classroom. She got all A's at Sonora. At Dominican, Pittman got all
A's except for one course - an A-minus. In her first semester at
Cabrillo, for the first time in her life, she actually saw what a "B"
on a report card looked like.
"And I did not like that at all!" she says with a chuckle. "I was determined that wouldn't happen in the next semester."
A resolute Pittman finished up at Cabrillo with A's in each of her four classes.
"Ashley is a winner," says Evans. "She's a winner in the classroom and
a winner on the court. The libero position fits her because it's a job
where you must be the ultimate teammate. You're captain of the
backcourt, so you must be humble and tough at the same time, and that's
"She makes those opposing hitters so frustrated because that volleyball
will be three inches off the ground and there's Ashley digging that
ball up - robbing you of a kill."
"Ashley is so talented in that back row," said Lore. "I know how
competitive she is. But she'll also be bringing a lot of maturity to
our team. She's a junior now with a lot of college-playing experience
and we're quite young this season. Being from Sonora - with its winning
tradition - is a big plus. Being from that area - where there are so
many talented players - is a plus. I'm confident she'll bring great
spunk and enthusiasm to our team. We're real excited that we'll have
Ashley for the next two years. And I'm glad that she found what she was
looking for with us.
"When you think about it, overall, it's just a win-win situation for both Ashley and our team."