Faith & tattoos

Faith & tattoos

Faith & tattoos

Andrew Ford

When it came time to discuss the classic Greek story of Orpheus in Dr. William Kumbier’s honors World Literature class, Ashlee Russell was crushed.

She couldn’t believe that no one else in her class was upset when Orpheus looked back at his wife, Eurydice and lost her back to the underworld just before escaping.

Russel swears she wouldn’t have looked back like Orpheus did. She had trouble believing anyone could read the 1500-year-old story and attempt to move on.

“I was crushed,” she said.

The frustration has only gotten worse since she first read the story. She’s read the story multiple times since then – always hoping for a different ending – and the story ends the same.

While it might be rare for a star volleyball player to sink her teeth into the Greek classics, Russell is anything but typical.

The junior (red shirt sophomore) right attacker, looks just as comfortable playing a leadership role with children at the Boys and Girls Club.

The mass communication broadcast television major and team-voted captain has always been willing to push herself and those around her for excellence, though if you ask she’ll probably try and push most of her success off on someone else.

The humble, 5-foot 7-inch Russell played five different sports at Spokane High: volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, track and, as a favor for another coach, softball.

She started three years as a middle in volleyball, leading her team to a third place finish at state her senior year while sprinting to state twice in the 100m hurdles.

Still, the anything-but-a-jock was also president of her high school’s National Honor Society, vice president of her student body and Student Council, in addition to being a member of Science Club, Math Team and Book Club.

In high school, she went to a small Pentecostal church mostly because of her parents.

“I just kind of did the things my family wanted me to do in high school,” she said.

Since high school she’s developed more of a faith on her own. According to Russell, she picks a book out of the Bible – right now she’s going through Ezekiel – then reads a chapter a day until she’s through it. Her faith is also evidenced through a small tattoo, a cross, on her left wrist.

“Every time I could look down at my wrist and remember why I make the decisions I do,” she said.

The small cross was her second tattoo. The first, a nautical star she got with her brother to “symbolize guidance and staying on the right path.”

The next is likely going to be on her ribs, with a scripture from the book of Matthew in the Bible. She’s says she is thinking about getting the hard-hitting scripture outlined in Japanese Cherry Blossoms.

The high school volleyball and track star ultimately came to Southern because of chemistry. During high school she had offers from five different schools to play volleyball. After some thought she took the list down to two schools: Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State.

With her father, Russell went to a match-up of the Lions versus the Gorillas in Joplin. Sneakily watching the interactions between players and coaches while trying to avoid either of the coaches seeing her, she saw the interactions between the players at Southern and made her decision.

“I snuck into a Southern game with my dad, which is tough when you’re being recruited by both schools, and noticed they (Missouri Southern) just had better chemistry,” she said.

“They (PSU players) looked like they were trying to just out play each other.”

Becoming a Lion the next year, Russell was excited to play college volleyball. But on the third day of practice during a sprint drill, Ashlee ran through the end of the sprint and into a fence 15 feet past the line. Her foot landed awkwardly on the base of the fence, a thick pipe, and ended up breaking the outside of her ­­­­left foot.

As she rehabbed her broken foot with a leg boot, she swung her leg around corners and awkwardly hobbled through her first four weeks of college life.

Head volleyball coach Chris Willis decided with the injury that would take her out for the majority of the season, Ashlee would have to redshirt.

For her, it seemed the end of the world.

Since then, Russell has become not only captain of the team, but a consistent, dominating right side attacker.

“Her job on the court is to block their best attacker,” Willis said, “so she has to terminate at a very high level.”

According to Willis, she has one of the highest kill percentages on the team.

“If she was ever to have a bad day, we would really want to check what’s going on, because she doesn’t have bad days,” he said.

After next year, Russell will have to mull over the options for her future.

She is on track to graduate in four years.

With her redshirt though, she’ll have the option of coming back to Southern for a fifth year. She’ll likely pick up more accolades both from her coaches and her team.

When asked, she replied hesitantly, she’s likely to stay.

So whether she chooses to go on to the real world or stay behind to see more of her teammates success, the choice will be up to her.

Regardless of what she chooses, you know she won’t look back.