Ashley Hudson was with the Veterans program for just two seasons after transferring from Alabama, but the senior made a lasting impact on the best volleyball program in the area as she racked up numerous honors, culminating with the announcement of Hudson being named The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Volleyball Player of the Year.
“She is a big competitor,” Veterans head coach Nicole Miranda said. “She can’t stand to lose or not perform well, and I think that’s what motivates her.”
Predominantly a middle blocker before transferring to Veterans, Hudson was versatile enough to move her 5-foot-9 frame to the outside under Miranda and assimilated almost immediately before taking her game to the next level in her final season.
A more well-rounded scorer, Hudson had 281 kills this season, averaging 3.0 per game to lead GHSA Region 1-5A.
“She has an incredibly fast arm swing,” Miranda said. “She hits the ball really hard, but what I felt changed the most between her junior and senior year was her ability to place the ball and work around blockers because they really started to key on her. She can go cross court or hit an off speed down the line to the corner.”
Said Hudson, “The timing is different between the outside and the middle and you also have to worry about passing and serving, because middles just play the whole front row,”
Serving is potentially where Hudson stood out the most this season.
A consistent threat to score from behind the baseline, she racked up 109 aces this season to once again lead the region. That mark was also top five in the state of Georgia.
“A lot of times her serve was risk and reward because it was so tough, but she was able to put an off speed to it and mix it up in clutch situations,” Miranda said. “Her biggest asset offensively is just that she has so many ways to score in her game.”
Hudson was a major reason that Veterans outperformed expectations in 2016 on its way to a 30-8 mark.
Despite the loss of a strong senior class, the Warhawks won their fifth consecutive region crown and advanced to the GHSA quarterfinals for the fourth time. The 2016 team also made history by becoming the first area team to be awarded a top-four seed in the playoffs, and therefore a chance to host an Elite Eight match.
“Getting that top four seed was huge because it means our name is finally in the pool,” Miranda said. “That’s the committee saying that we are going to compete and we are going to compete year in and year out.”
“I take a lot of pride (in the program),” Hudson said. “I don’t think many people thought we would go very far because we lost five or six seniors and had to start all over, but a lot of my teammates stepped up to the plate. I think we were a lot closer than we were last year, and I think we did more breakdown in certain aspects that helped things come together.”
Hudson’s success this season earned her several offers to play volleyball at the next level before she eventually settled on Reinhardt. She will look to contribute athletically while pursuing a degree in nursing.
“I chose Rheinhardt because it was close and it’s a Division II so they can offer both athletic and academic (financial aid),” Hudson said.
Player of the Year
Ashley Hudson, Veterans
Ashley Hudson, Sr. OH, Veterans
Hudson had 281 kills, 109 aces and 112 digs for the Area 1-5A champion and Class 5A quarterfinalist. She led Middle Georgia in aces, helping pace Veterans to 2-1 and 2-0 victories over Mount de Sales.
Avery Thomson, Soph. OH, Mount de Sales
Thomson had 262 kills, 66 aces and 164 digs for the Area 7-1A champion and Class 1A quarterfinalist.
Triniti Sims, Jr. MB, Mount de Sales
Sims had 330 kills, 87 aces, 230 digs and 47 blocks, leading Middle Georgia in kills and digs on a team that did not lose to any other Middle Georgia program other than Veterans.
Alasha Heard, Soph. MB, Veterans
Heard had 227 kills, 20 aces, 39 digs and 78 blocks for a team that went undefeated in Middle Georgia.
Erin Bunkers, Sr. S, Mount de Sales
Bunkers had 561 assists and 141 digs, averaging 7.01 assists per game.
Madison Hill, Sr. S, Veterans
Hill had 525 assists and 126 digs, averaging 5.65 assists per game.
FPD: Mackenzie Johnson.
Houston County: Maira Marsh.
West Laurens: Cedrianna Harris, Emily Bracewell.
Mary Persons: Olympia High, Georgia Wilcox.