There’s an ‘A’ in this teamAshley Hinsch’s unselfish play helps her land all-area and all-state honors.
By: Ryan Nilsson, The Republican Eagle
After each volleyball match this season, Zumbrota-Mazeppa's three coaches conferred and selected a Player of the Game. The recipient was awarded a Dairy Queen Blizzard gift certificate.
The plan was to spread the honor around and acknowledge players who provided a spark off the bench. Despite the coaches' intentions, standout sophomore Ashley Hinsch earned enough gift certificates to indulge in a Blizzard taste test.
Instead, she gave away many of her gift certificates to friends from school. When teammate Jamie St. Marie suggested to Hinsch that they go to Dairy Queen, Hinsch informed her that she didn't have any Blizzard gift certificates left.
"Jamie was upset because she said that I was playing my game for other people," Hinsch said. "I just laughed. It makes sense, but I just thought I'd share."
Hinsch's generosity is emblematic of her play on the court as a setter and right-side hitter. Hinsch, the Republican Eagle's All-Area Volleyball Player of the Year, is the consummate team player.
"It just takes the whole team to win a game," Hinsch said. "I notice sometimes if you're not included then you just feel a little left out so I always like to get everybody in there. I think everybody is good at a different thing so I like to get people in the right situations the ball."
The Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association named Hinsch to its 2009 all-state teams, but she does not embrace all the attention. She doesn't like to stand out and isn't comfortable talking about herself, according to St. Marie.
"If you tell her, 'Ashley, you're really good,' she'll be like, 'Oh, No. No," said St. Marie, a junior. "She'll get not upset, but uncomfortable."
Cougars coach Linda Boraas has seen those traits before. She said Maggie McNamara was much the same way. McNamara, a 2006 Z-M graduate, is in her senior season at Concordia University, St. Paul, and has helped the Golden Bears win the last two Division II national titles.
"They're so in tune to what their teammates are doing that they would do whatever they could to try to make their teammates play to their level," Boraas said.
Hinsch's work out of season is a big reason for her success. She is a setter with the elite Northern Lights Volleyball Club, which is based out of Burnsville, Minn. Hinsch is now in her third season with the club.
"I play so much in the offseason and it's really kind of competitive," Hinsch said. "I learn a lot there and it kind of carries through to the high school season."
Hinsch tallied 435 set assists (5.4 per game) with the Cougars this season, improving her career total to 1,207. The nature of her sets are much more impressive than the sheer number. Hinsch possesses unmatched vision -- she knows where the blockers are. In addition, she can make a good set from almost anywhere on the court.
"You can tell an Ashley set," St. Marie said. "You're just like, 'How did it get there?' It's just like magic."
The Cougars began the season with a 5-1 offense, but Boraas switched to a 6-2 midway through the second match of the season against perennial power Stewartville. The move allowed Hinsch to hit.
Z-M lost in five games, but Hinsch thrived. She finished with a team-high 12 kills. Hinsch tallied 211 kills (2.6 per game) and a .391 kill percentage this season.
"She probably improved from last year to this year in her hitting," Boraas said. "There was one time she put it at the 10-foot line. I'm just kind of going, 'Oh my goodness.'"
As she said that, Boraas' head and eyes darted in all directions as if she was back in the gym and searching to see if anyone else in attendance was aware of what just happened.
Hinsch added 184 digs (2.3 per game), 33 ace blocks and 51 ace serves. She also was a 91 percent server.
"She's just a tremendous athlete," Boraas said. "She's just fun to coach because she's so humble and very team orientated."