By Wes Wilcox | firstname.lastname@example.org
There is more than meets the eye though when it comes to Flagler volleyball senior Ashley Lechleidner Rodriguez, who was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Jacksonville at a young age where she played volleyball at Ponte Vedra High School. Out of high school she attended Florida State College of Jacksonville and played for the Blue Wave for two seasons. While at FSCJ Rodriguez pulled off the unthinkable setting a school record with 624 digs in her sophomore season.
After playing for the Blue Wave for two seasons, Rodriguez wanted to test the waters by transferring to play volleyball at a Division II school. With St. Augustine just south of Jacksonville, and Flagler among the Peach Belt Conference’s elite programs, Flagler was always on her mind as a potential location.
“I’ve known about how good Flagler College was for a while,” she said. “My sophomore year of high school I came to the showcase. … I knew about Matt Affolder, and he has been a great coach.”
After playing for the Blue Wave for two seasons Rodriguez had come down to two potential transfer locations: Florida Tech and Flagler College. After visiting Florida Tech, the next stop was St. Augustine, but the decision process was a lot easier than expected.
“At the time it was the best thing for me,” she said. “I was literally five minutes from home. Once I came here it was a done deal. Meeting the girls and Matt made it easy.”
When asked if she has regretted the decision to come to Flagler over Florida Tech, there was zero hesitation: “I have loved it. No Regrets. A city like St. Augustine, it’s amazing. Everything is here and I love the faculty and staff. The city reminds me a lot of Puerto Rico.”
Coming into a new program, though, is never easy, and that was made clear from the get go. After dominating the defensive side of the ball at FSCJ, Rodriguez came into a Flagler program with first year coach Matt Affolder and an already “libero” Caitlyn Kovach.
“When I transferred, it was a competition between Cait and I, and she earned it,” said Rodriguez.
So what does one do when you have two of North Florida’s best defensive specialist on one roster? You put them side-by-side. This Saints team has become one of the nation’s elite from the play of seniors Kovach and Rodriguez.
“We complement each others’ playing style,” said Rodriguez.
The feeling of coming into your final season at your school as a senior is never an emotion an athlete wants to endure, and with expectations through the roof for this 2015-16 squad, Rodriguez knows this is her last shot at a Peach Belt Conference title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. This team includes potential PBC Freshman of the Year candidates in Tara Savisky and Shea Hamilton, as well as 2014-2015’s PBC Freshman of the Year Sara Davis. This is by far Affolder’s most impressive roster thus far, and Rodriguez believes this team can live up to the hype.
“With Tara, she is a freshman, and has so much responsibility, but she’s killing it,” she said. “We have the talent. It’s about going out and showing how good Flagler College Volleyball is.”