This was not how the season was supposed to go. After winning the Division 1AAA National Championship last year, Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) Club Volleyball team (of which I am a member) was gearing up to try to win another title with a new coach. However, like almost all sporting events around the world, the rest of their season has come to a clamoring stop due to coronavirus.
Despite its brevity, Ashely Maxfeldt has managed to leave her mark on the program in her first year of coaching the team. Maxfeldt played volleyball for the division one National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) team for four years at LMU, from 2011-2014 and is now back at her alma mater to leave another legacy.
Maxfeldt comes to every practice with her acrylic nails and blonde hair pulled into a bun. She is quick to laugh and joke around with players, but do not let this fool you, because she definitely has a highly competitive edge. She wants to win, and she wants her team to want to win. This is in large part due to her growing up as a high-level athlete.
Maxfeldt fell in love with volleyball when she was in fifth grade. “I went to a club tryout with my best friend, who played volleyball. I played soccer, but after that I went home and told my parents that I would rather play volleyball,” Maxfeldt explained, “And of course they like what are you doing? You are much better at soccer.”
Maxfeldt continued to play club volleyball from then on and was eventually recruited by schools across the country, including Arizona and Wichita State. However, she decided to stay close to her hometown of Rancho Cucamonga, CA and play for LMU.
“I trusted the coaching staff and I just fell in love with the school and the campus and it being close to home was kind of the final selling piece,” Maxfeldt said.
So, in 2011 she started her career at LMU playing both indoor and beach volleyball.
“We were expected to play both at the time, but I think that helped my love for the game at LMU. Not that I didn’t always love it, but I really enjoyed playing beach,” Maxfeldt reflected.
However, her journey at the collegiate level was not always a smooth one.
“It was challenging because when I was recruited, I was recruited as setter. And then a younger setter came in after me. And we would run a six-two a lot (meaning they both would play), but we lost a streak of five games running that offense and it clearly was not working,” Maxfeldt explained.
So, the coaching staff switched them to a 5-1 offense which meant that Maxfeldt now found herself as a junior on the bench. Not wanting to sit out her final year, she decided to put in the extra hours of work to try to switch her position to libero.
Her dedication paid off and she was able to play her senior year, including in the NCAA tournament, and was voted team captain.
“I could have easily just thrown in the towel and just been like alright, I am just not going to play, but wanted to fight through that and wanted to figure out a way to get on the court,” Maxfeldt said.
After graduation Maxfeldt decided to dive straight into the professional world instead of following in some of her teammates footsteps who continued to play professionally overseas. However, she still carries the game and the lessons she learned from it with her.
“You can always revert back to what you learned playing a sport on the court. As a student athlete you understand hard work. You understand devotion. You understand sacrifice,” Maxfeldt explained, “All those lessons help you in the working world or any industry job that you’re in.”
However, while she may have found success as an Account Executive at Team One, Maxfeldt was not ready to give the game up. Instead, she started coaching a 15s club team on the side, before agreeing to come back to her alma mater, where she has made a significant impact.
“In previous years, I felt as though we never had a coach who was relatable, ” Loni Wegner, a senior outside and president of the team said, “Since Ashley is an LMU alum and knows the struggles of being involved in different things on campus, she is always there to give us words of advice.”
This is in part due to Maxfeldt’s approach to coaching. While she wants to win, she does not want to have to build players down to do it. Instead she relies heavily on developing relationships with her players.
“In previous years… we had coaches with great amounts of experience, but they were unable to strengthen our team dynamic as well as Ashley,” Wegner said.
The season had been off to a great start. While the team had not won every game, they challenged some of the best teams in the country, like the University of Santa Barbara, who is fourth in the national rankings.
However, when the news broke that the season was over, the team still had the most competitive and important tournaments of the year on their calendar, including the national tournament.
“The whole team is upset that our season was cut short. It felt as though all of our hard work in practices did not matter.” Wegner explained.
“We were forced into a situation where everything was just cut off and done. And like what if that is your senior year?” Maxfeldt asked.
Which is the case of Wegner who started her volleyball career at age 11.
“Getting the news of these tournaments’ cancellations was heartbreaking for me…but I am so grateful for all the wonderful memories,” Wegner said.
Despite these challenges, Maxfeldt is still taking her coaching duties seriously. Sending out messages of encouragement to the team and organizing zoom sessions to try to preserve the team dynamic.
Now, the only thing the team can do is follow Maxfeldt’s lead and look to the future while continuing to support one another in any way they can.
Original Interview with Ashley Maxfeldt conducted on April 14, 2020.
Original Interview with Loni Wegner conducted on April 17, 2020.