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Saugus' Ashley Guthrie: Into the spotlight

Cents junior is starting to gain notoriety for playing an important position

Posted: October 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: October 3, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The position of setter in volleyball is similar to a quarterback in football, and Saugus junior Ashley Guthrie is the best at her position in the Foothill League. Her selfless nature contributes to her effectiveness at the position.

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It’s often referred to as the volleyball equivalent of a quarterback in football.

The setter position is perhaps equally as important as a quarterback, but it doesn’t draw nearly the same attention.

Saugus setter Ashley Guthrie is OK with it.

In fact, it suits her perfectly.

“That’s just Ashley,” says senior teammate Jaclyn Clark.

Call her quiet, humble or even shy. One thing most coaches in the Foothill League agree with is that Guthrie, 16, is not only the best setter in the league, but also one of the best players in the area.

“I think that coaches recognize that if you don’t have a good setter, you can only go so far,” says Saugus head coach Zach Ambrose.

Just a junior, Guthrie is in her third year of varsity and she’s playing alongside some of the league’s best hitters in Clark and Sarah Blomgren.

The other five teams in the Foothill run an offensive scheme called a 6-2, meaning the setting duties rotate between two different players.

With Guthrie, the Centurions don’t need another setter.

Part of the reason is because she plays well as a blocker, meaning she isn’t a liability when she rotates into the front row.

The second reason is her chemistry with teammates.

“I feel comfortable setting anybody on our team, and I think that’s come with a lot of experience and a lot of learning,” Guthrie says.

A lot of the experience came in club volleyball as well.

Though she’s only 16, Guthrie spent last season with the 17-year-old team at Los Angeles Volleyball Academy, formerly Santa Monica Beach Club.

Her former club coach Alicia Robinson noticed Guthrie’s maturity right away.

“I told her, ‘I need you to play at a 17 (or 18-year-old) college level,’ and she said, ‘Alright, where do I start?’” Robinson says.

But with all the responsibility that comes with playing setter and basically running the offense, the rewards don’t always match the difficulty.

The glory usually goes to the players that finish the play, meaning the hitters, who are collecting all the kills.

Every great kill, however, has to start with a great set.

“You have to be perfect with your position and your choices,” Guthrie says. “You have to be a little bit more perfect than the other positions, so when you make a mistake, you have to forget about it a lot quicker.”

Given Guthrie’s unselfish personality, the all-guts, no-glory nature of her position is a good match.

During a match, she’ll get as fired up and emotional as anyone on the court. Afterward, she can calmly reflect on the result as if she was merely a spectator.

“Ashley fits very well in that role,” Robinson says. “She seems quiet, but she gets her little spunky energy going there.”

That energy doesn’t just come out in volleyball, according to those around her.

Clark has become good friends with Guthrie after playing on the same club team and high school team with her for the past two years.

In that time, the two players have carpooled to practices together, taken bus rides to tournaments and have even gotten to know each other’s families.

Still, Clark hardly knew about Guthrie’s charity work through her church — not that it surprised her.

“Ashley’s just a great person all around, so I think that she’s going to put hard work into everything and help other people even if she doesn’t have time to do it,” Clark says.

Through Grace Baptist Church, Guthrie participates in a program called Operation Gratitude, which puts together care packages that are sent overseas to members of the U.S. Military.

Guthrie also participates in cancer-awareness walks every year and maintains a 3.86 GPA in school.

She doesn’t do it so she can brag about it or because anyone forces her to.

It’s just her style.

“I don’t like to bring that much attention to myself,” Guthrie says. “I’m kind of shy that way. I like giving back and I like putting in everything to the things that I do.”

And it’s starting to pay off for her.

Colleges are already showing interest and Guthrie still has another year of high school.

Saugus is a team loaded with talent and experience, and opponents are starting to take notice at the player in the center of it all.

“She works incredibly hard. She never asks for more than she can give,” Ambrose says of Guthrie. “She’s really developed a sense of fight that I think the other kids feed off of.”

Suddenly, the shy, quiet girl isn’t flying under the radar anymore.

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