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UCLA volleyball commit Ashley Mullen paves the way for Liberty’s offense

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In 14 sets played, senior Ashley Mullen had 126 assists and 16 aces with 93.8 percent service, leading Liberty (Mo.) to seven straight wins. (Photo by AJ Hildreth)

It’s not often that a visit to Disney World is overshadowed by something else, but that’s exactly what happened last weekend when Ashley Mullen and the Liberty (Mo.) volleyball team traveled to Orlando, Fla.

The Blue Jays competed in the KSA Events Fall Classic Volleyball Tournament, and that’s where the real magic took place. Mullen earned MVP honors as Liberty went 7-0 and didn’t drop a single set on their way to securing first place at the showcase.

In 14 sets played, the 5-foot-10 senior setter had 126 assists, 16 aces with a 93.8 percent service, 14 digs, three blocks and three kills, adding another accolade in the aftermath — JWS Next Player of the Week.

“There was a lot of team bonding throughout that entire experience. It was also really tiring,” Mullen said. “You’re walking around for five to seven hours after you’ve just played however many matches of volleyball where you’re running and jumping, so it was definitely a physical challenge as well. But it was a really fun experience.”

The Blue Jays returned home and stuck to their winning ways on Tuesday, sweeping Lee’s Summit in a 3-0 decision. The UCLA commit, ranked No. 12 in the nation in JWS’ high school player rankings, didn’t slow down a bit, amassing 31 assists to go along with six digs and two blocks.

Mullen is one of two co-captains who have led the way for Liberty, now 11-0 on the season after knocking off Park Hill 3-2 on Thursday evening.

“As the setter and what we call the quarterback of the team, she’s got a big responsibility,” Blue Jays coach April Fleming said. “She touches the ball just about every single time it comes across the net, so for her to play consistent volleyball, that just makes our team better and helps our team go.”

Mullen, one of six seniors on this year’s Liberty squad, is coming off a 2021 campaign in which she recorded 1,094 assists. She verbally committed to the Bruins program in early September, choosing UCLA over NC State in the end. Mullen said she was drawn to the two programs because both head coaches were setter coaches and had experience with USA Volleyball.

“The experience and consistency that she brings to our team is huge,” Fleming said about Mullen. “A lot of our success is because we have a girl that can run and spread out our offense.”

In June, Mullen was selected to compete at the Under Armour All-America Game in Orlando in December along with 23 other standout high school players. She will be joined by Team Dynasty club volleyball teammate Calissa Minatee, a Minnesota commit who’s currently a senior at North Kansas City (Mo.).

“I think that once I was selected and heard my name, it was a little bit of a relief, but it was really exciting,” Mullen said. “To know that I’m going to get to play with some of the best players in the country, it’s pretty cool.”

For now, Mullen is focused on embracing the moment and enjoying her final varsity season at Liberty, including the opportunity to play one final season with her sister, Abigail, a sophomore opposite hitter who helped lead Team USA to a gold-medal finish at the Pan American Cup in July.

“It means a lot. My parents have been watching us play on separate teams for years, and we both know that we’re really good athletes,” Ashley said. “Just knowing that we’re able to play with each other and that we’re also family is pretty cool.”

Mullen has individual goals in mind — she wants to be named Gatorade Missouri Volleyball Player of the Year and win the Evelyn Gates Award, awarded to the top female volleyball player in the Kansas City area — but it all starts with her team’s success.

And there’s no shortage of ambition there, either. She wants to go out a state champion.

“Not every team gets to have a fairytale ending,” Mullen said. “I feel like this team has been through thick and thin. We can totally strive for that state championship. We’ve got to take it one day at a time.

“So far, we’ve had a really good season, and I really think that we can get all the way there.”

Trent Singer is the High School Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @trentsinger.