October 1, 2020 – By NJP

What an amazing impact Ashley Duhaney had for Verona as she broke onto the scene as a sophomore middle. Ashley pounded 171 kills and 47 blocks in the front row for the Hillbillies. She also slammed 29 aces and over 150 service points en route to helping Verona achieve a 21-9 season where they made it all the way to the Group 1 semi-final game in the state tournament.

Ashley was a force, plain and simple. She kept getting better as the season progressed and used her size and strength to power her way to lead the team in kills and blocks. She has presence and high end volleyball IQ. It will be interesting to see just how good she will be in 2022 as a senior.

Verona looks solid as they return Ashley, rising sophomores Patricia Rakova who notched 137 kills as a freshman and Sydney Aiello who put up 64 kills. These young stars coupled with 6 returning varsity seniors will set up the Hillbillies to have a standout season.

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Verona slots in at #23 overall in New Jersey in NJP’s preseason rankings. They were ranked in the top 40 in 2019, 2nd in the SEC behind Millburn who finished 20-5. We expect Millburn to take a slight step back after losing some quality seniors. Verona is the #1 team in the SEC as we approach the modified season.

Ashley continues to hone her game at SideOut Sports during the off season and we expect her to be a dominant force this year in what should be a fun season for the Hillbillies.

Here is our interview with Ms. Duhaney…

Tell us a bit about yourself, Ashley?

My name is Ashley Duhaney and I am a junior at Verona High School in Verona, New Jersey. I am in the graduating class of 2022 and I live with my mom, dad, two older sisters Ariane and Alexis and my maltipoo Coco. My oldest sister, Ariane, played lacrosse in high school and my other sister, Alexis, played Tennis in high school. My parents are my biggest supporters and they always try their best to make my games.

How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?

I started playing volleyball in 8th grade and I have been playing for about three and a half years now. I had done a clinic in 5th grade to make friends in the beginning of middle school, but wasn’t passionate about the sport until I decided to do a clinic at the sideout sports volleyball club in the summer going into 8th grade. After the clinic was done I decided to take the sport seriously. I was never really interested in volleyball when I was younger because I was fascinated by swimming and basketball. Even
though I stopped playing basketball, the sport helped with my approach and my defense mobility.

What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?

I am 5’9”, my standing reach is 7’6”, and with my full approach I can reach 9’7” as of last month. I am a middle hitter for my high school and my club, Sideout Sports Volleyball Club. However last year, I played as an outside hitter on my club team. Playing as a middle is always fun, but my favorite position would have to be outside because the position is extremely versatile. As an outside hitter you can hit a one ball, two ball, shoot, go, hut, pipe, bic, 31, 32, or a right side ball and still play defense, which is
extremely cool.

Tell us about your Hillbillies teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?

My teammates at Verona High School are some of the best people and players I’ve ever met. This year we have a lot of talented players coming back and we have a fair amount of new talent as well. From the class of 2021, I absolutely expect Sinclaire Infusino, and Jessie Loudon to stand out with their impressive defensive skills. I also expect Megan Meehan to flourish this year and I predict that she will be one of our most reliable hitters. I feel that Geena Kingler and I will work together fantastically this
year as well. From the class of 2023, I bank on Sydney Aiello and Patricia Rakova being crucial players.

NJP considers you as one of the top players in the state. Do you plan on playing in College? (If so, which ones are you looking at?)

If I can play volleyball at the college of my choice that would be incredible, but my college choice will be determined by the highest academic environment I can find. I want to choose a school that has the major of my choice and a fantastic program that I will grow in. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit any schools in person or go to any college camps due to this ongoing global pandemic during the summer. But I hope that I can in the future and I can’t wait to visit schools in person!

Tell us about your club experience at SideOut Sports?

I started playing at Sideout Sports around 4 years ago and since those four years I have changed for the better as a player and as a person. I’ve had multiple coaches and each coach helped me develop critical skills for the game and learn to be the best possible player and teammate I can possibly be. Sideout has been a safe space for me to have fun and let loose when I needed to most. I have to thank Sideout sports for helping me grow so much and exposing me to new opportunities as a player.

Tell us about Verona’s 4 game state playoff run, your upset win over Wood Ridge and your semi-final loss to Kinnelon.

This was my first year participating in the playoffs and I loved every minute of it from start to end. Every game took more heart and grit than the last and each game was more fun than last as well. Our win over Wood Ridge would have to be one of my favorite games because I remember how good it felt to play with my everything and overcome the odds with my teammates. Losing against Kinnelon was extremely tough, but it was a learning experience and in the end it was a wild and fun ride. I would do it
all over again without changing a thing because even though we didn’t win the group 1 championship I had the time of my life with my favorite people and I would trade that for a thing.

Verona is poised for another standout season after finishing 21-9 last season. They return over 70% of their statistical output from last seasons team and are ranked #23 in NJ and tops in the SEC in NJP’s pre-season ranks. What is your expectation for this year’s squad?

There are so many different obstacles this year because of this COVID-19 pandemic, however I have great expectations for this upcoming season. Verona volleyball has such a bright future, which is credited to both our upper and underclassmen. Even though there are a plethora of obstacles, we will work hard and dedicate our all to the sport we love and devote our time to.

Which player last season was the toughest competitor that you faced and why?

I would say the toughest competitor we faced last year was Bogota. Bogota played such disciplined volleyball and they had a phenomenal roster. Their arsenal included Nylene Mateo and Kiara Polanco, who are such incredible players. It was honestly an honor to play against them and I can’t wait to play against them in the future.

Ashley (#27) and her Verona Teammates and Coaches

Who is your support group?

My support group is my entire family. My sisters and my parents try to come to any game they possibly can, home or away and they drive me to every practice day or night. They come to all of my out of state tournaments and take time out of their day to show me their love. I love my family so much and I’m so grateful that I have such incredible and warmhearted people in my life.

How are you and your family dealing with the current world situation with COVID-19? How will the delay in the Fall high school season schedule affect you or your team?

My family and I are dealing with this COVID-19 pandemic pretty well considering what other families have gone through because of it. My dad is a radiologist so he’s been dealing with the brunt of this pandemic along with other front-line health-care workers. Luckily none of my family members and I contracted the virus, but we were extremely bored while in isolation. I used my time in quarantine to learn new skills and find more hobbies like drawing, embroidery, and playing the piano. Once quarantine was over, I was able to go to clinics at Sideout sports and start practicing at Verona High School before our season was pushed to February.

Have you won any awards such as All County or All State or others.

Last season, I was selected 1st team All-Conference, and 3rd Team All Group 1, which is a huge honor. I hope that as I work harder, I will receive more awards in success in the future.

What is your favorite inspirational video or music that you like to watch or listen to before games?

Before games I like to get super pumped and I like to listen to some of my favorite songs. I mainly listen to rap music, trap music and early 2000’s hip hop and dance a little before we warm up. I like how fast tempo songs just makes me want to move and get active.

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