Standup comedy and volleyball have one big thing in common.
Without an impeccable sense of timing, the act falls flat.
Ashlee Lupfer felt the timing was right to transfer from Central Valley High School to play her senior season at University. And, she says, once her new Titan teammates get their timing down as well, the volleyball team will go places.
Lupfer, a senior outside hitter, was a two-year starter for the Bears and spent the summer playing with the U-18 Spokane Splash, which finished third in the National Division of the Junior Olympics tournament.
“I’m really glad I transferred,” she said. “I love the school and I love playing here.
“I was really looking forward to playing with (senior setter) Kara (Crisp) – she’s my closest friend on the team and she’s a lot of fun to play with.”
The atmosphere for home games at U-Hi also adds to the fun, she explained.
“They had a lot of people out for our game at Central Valley, but it was only about a quarter of the crowd we get for a U-Hi game,” Lupfer said. “That really gets me excited. It’s great to have students standing along the side of the court for a game. It pumps us all up.”
Coming off its most successful season in school history, a sixth-place finish in the State 4A tournament, the Titans face a rebuilding effort after several key players graduated.
“We have a young team and Ashlee has stepped right in and fit in like she’s been here forever,” coach Amanda Velasquez said. “She’s just a great kid, and has really helped bring some of our younger players along.”
Still, Tuesday’s marathon loss at Central Valley was odd.
“It did feel a little strange to be on the other side of the net and there were a bunch of guys in the stands doing chants about me, but it was okay,” Lupfer said. “I’m where I belong.”
The five-game loss to the Bears left University 2-3 in the Greater Spokane League – a slow start that should turn around quickly.
“We have most of the hard teams in the league during the first part of the season,” Lupfer said. “The games will get a little easier now for a while. What’s really important for us is how well we play at the end of the season.”
So far the biggest challenges for the Titans has been developing better communication as well as that sense of timing.
“That’s what held us back in the beginning,” she said. “We were still trying to get used to playing with one another. Now things are starting to come together.
“Communication has been a problem. We have a lot of shy girls on this team and we’ve been running a lot of drills aimed at getting them to speak up. You can’t be shy and play volleyball.”
Being shy was never a problem for Lupfer – or Crisp for that matter.
“I was never shy,” Lupfer laughed. “I’ve always been pretty vocal.
“Kara and I kind of share a leadership role because we’re the loudest ones on the team. We get our point across. We’re the ones who usually say what needs to be said.”
The two are the Titans most experienced players. Crisp is a four-year starter for the Titans; Lupfer, a three-year starter, is a veteran of top-level play with the Spokane Splash.
“I’ve played with a lot of the players from (two-time defending state champion) Mead on the Splash,” she said. “I pretty much play volleyball all year around.”
Playing with the Splash over the summer kept Lupfer from doing a lot with her new University teammates.
“We didn’t get finished until the beginning of July when we took third at the Junior Olympics,” she said. “After that I went straight into conditioning at U-Hi. But there were a lot of girls who couldn’t always make it and coach (Velasquez) didn’t really know what the team was going to be like at that point so we didn’t get a chance to play a whole lot together. But we had some good practices before school started.”
Lupfer wants to continue playing volleyball after this season
“I kind of want to go to the East Coast,” she said. “Volleyball on the East Coast isn’t quite as intense as volleyball out here. They’re looking for girls with good grades and I have a 3.9 grade-point average.”
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