MATTOON — About a month and a half ago, Mattoon's Ashlyn MacDonald made up her mind of where she was going to continue her athletic and academic career. She was going to go to Lake Land to play volleyball for head coach Ashli Robison.
There was nothing that changed MacDonald's mind. On Tuesday, MacDonald made it official. With family, friends, her future coaches and past coaches surrounding her, MacDonald put pen to paper and officially signed to play for the Lake Land College volleyball team next season.
"It's really excited and it's even more of a weight off me now that I've officially signed," MacDonald said. "Everything is official."
Mattoon coach Mark Jackley said MacDonald had a great high school career and he expects it to carry over to her college career.
"She's put herself in this position to receive this type of accomplishment," Jackley said. "Now it's time for her to get challenged at the next level. We've seen for three years what she can do. She came in as a sophomore and you could tell she had potential and then she got better every season. I look forward to watching her play at the next level and play against players that have the same ability or even better. This will be a great challenge for her and Lake Land is getting a great player."
MacDonald was a force in the Apollo Conference this season as the right side hitter finished with 269 kills. Now she hopes to have the same kind of impact as a freshman at Lake Land in the fall. MacDonald knows the college game will be tougher, but she's ready for the adjustment and ready to make her presence known at that level.
"I feel like I can make a large impact because in high school I made a big impact on our team," MacDonald said. "I feel like I can carry that over to the collegiate level. In high school, not everybody is at the top, you have a few players who are really good. At the collegiate level, everybody is the best of the best. I still am going to be working with my club team."
Robison feels she's getting a player who can make an impact on the team right away.
"Ashlyn is a good signee, especially from Mattoon and I've been lucky the last three years to get some good players from Mattoon, so we are really excited to what she adds to the right side with Kristy Buford," Robison said. "They could be a dynamic duo. If we are running a 6-2, Ashlyn will be the opposite two behind Kristy and she could possibly pass Kristy, we will see in August."
MacDonald has already shown she can improve by leaps and bounds from one season to the next. MacDonald was in the varsity rotation as a sophomore and then became a key attacker as a junior. This past season she became the go-to attacker for the Green Wave.
She feels she can grow even more over the next couple of seasons.
"I just had a lot of great coaches that have pushed me constantly and that's a big reason why I've been able to make those jumps each year," MacDonald said.
Robison has had her eye on MacDonald since her junior season and has seen her grow as a player.
"She said in club, she started to really understand the game, so I thought that was the best thing for her because all of a sudden she did grow," Robison said. "Her junior year I wanted her here. I think she can continue to grow as long as she continues to stay in the gym. There's definitely growth there."
Jackley said MacDonald didn't just grow as a player, but also as a leader on the court.
"She's just so dedicated to the sport and the thing I really appreciated from Ashlyn as a senior was her leadership," Jackley said. "She really came out and it wasn't about her, it was about the team. The 27 wins and the regional championship, she was a big part of that. She will be a big loss to the Green Wave program, but Lake Land is getting a quality player."
It's that kind of leadership that Robison felt was lacking at times this season. So MacDonald could provide a spark to the Lady Lakers that was missing last season.
"She has a strong personality. I hope she comes in focused and that the others follow that lead of just being that driven athlete that she is on the court," Robison said. "That personality will be good for the set of sophomores that we have and for the freshmen that we have coming in."