Talented Twosome Signs with Kansas
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A year ago, head coach Ray Bechard and his staff were diligently working on replacing an abnormally-large senior class with a nationally-ranked group of freshmen. While the number is significantly smaller this time around, Kansas volleyball will still welcome a high-powered class as Patricia Montero and Ashley Smith signed National Letters of Intent to join the Jayhawks in 2015.
Neither are from the Sunflower State with Montero hailing from Ponce, Puerto Rico and Smith from Las Vegas, but instead chose Kansas as a destination location. The Jayhawks have earned overall national seeds and hosting rights of the NCAA Tournament First and Second Rounds for two-straight seasons and are sitting at a cool 19-7 record in 2014. In order to welcome the incoming duo of outside hitters, however, that means Bechard and the Jayhawks have to say goodbye to their outsides from the Class of 2014 – Chelsea Albers and Sara McClinton.
“We lose two really quality kids in Chelsea and Sara,” Bechard said. “They entered into the mix from day one and have been really productive throughout their careers. They will certainly be missed. We feel like we’ve gone out and found a couple of kids who will certainly be very versatile on the pin. Patricia and Ashley can play left side or right side, but they’re different in that Patricia has played the game for a long time and Ashley is a little bit newer to the sport. They both bring the type of athleticism and competitiveness that we’re excited about.”
Both have potential of becoming six rotation players, which will be needed to replace Albers, who impacts the game from a blocking, passing and attacking perspective, as well as McClinton, who will likely finish her career about the top-five all-time kills leaders at Kansas. According to Bechard, Montero has ability to play all six spots coming in, while Smith will be ready for the same in no time.
Patricia Montero | OH | 5-10 | Ponce, PR | Colegio Ponceño HS
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Montero didn’t have the high school career that many have due to her recruitment on the Puerto Rican national team (TEAM PUR). In fact, Montero was on her way to Mexico during the official first day of the NLI signing period as she will play with TEAM PUR in the XXII Central American and Caribbean Games of Veracruz 2014, beginning Nov. 14.
Patricia Montero”We became aware of Patricia a little later in the process and were immediately impressed with her volleyball IQ and athleticism,” Bechard said. “She has had some national team opportunities down there that will allow her to make the transition a little easier from where’s she been to Big 12 level volleyball.”
Standing at 5-10, Montero doesn’t have the size of typical Big 12 outside hitters, but her vertical and explosiveness erase any height questions. She was the fourth-best scorer at the U18 Pan American Cup in Guatemala City after leading her team in kills against Slovenia in April 2013. Later that year, Montero was her own highlight reel at the U18 World Championship in Thailand, where she was ranked the 14th-best scorer in the world, top-20 in kills and top-40 in blocks.
“First of all, I just love the friendly environment on campus,” Montero said about bringing her international talent to Kansas. “Everyone is so nice and the town is so clean and peaceful. Then when it comes to sports, I really have great feeling for KU and its coaching staff. It was an immediate click for me and my family, like nothing I felt in prior visits to other programs. Coach B (Bechard), Laura (Kuhn), Todd (Chamberlain)…and all the faculty members I met with really made me feel at home.”
Representing her country, Montero was named the U16 Power League West Coast MVP in 2012 and went on to claim MVP honors again at the U17 Angel Matos Cup in 2013. She was also named to the U17 Power League East Coast All-Star Team in 2013.
The daughter of Vanessa and Efrain, who was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 1990 MLB Amateur Draft and played for the TEAM PUR national baseball team, Montero comes from a family that values both athletics and academics. She plans to major in international business with the hopes of attending law school following graduation. Throughout her time at her high school, Colegio Ponceño, Montero was an honor student with a GPA above 3.6.
“I feel I can really make a positive contribution to KU’s winning tradition,” Montero said. “I am extremely excited about this new journey that I am about to start – just can’t wait!”
Ashley Smith | OH | 6-0 | Las Vegas, Nevada | Shadow Ridge HS
Ashley Smith comes to Kansas as a four-year starter at Shadow Ridge High School under the direction of Karissa Guthrie. In fact, Smith led the Mustangs are headed to their first state championship in school history on Nov. 14, thanks to Smith’s double-doubles in the Sunset Regional final (22 kills/12 digs), the state semifinal (22 kills/23 digs) and again in the state championship (16 kills/15 digs). Smith has been a standout player from day one with the Mustangs, earning three-straight years of Sunset Division First Team honors in the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons. Recently, Smith added a Conference MVP to her resume in 2014 – just in time to announce her decision of becoming a Jayhawk.
“We’ve been recruiting Ashley for a while,” Bechard said. “I think at one time she may have felt like she was a regional recruit and then she said ‘You know what, I want to expand my recruiting base’ and that’s when we saw her. We love her physicality and we think her best volleyball is certainly in front of her. She’s going to be very diligent in how hard she works.”
Smith totaled an impressive senior season as passed the 400-kill mark in the state tournament, coupled with a team-best 4.30 kills per set average. She also digs for well over three digs per set. Smith, who is also on the coveted 2014 Under Armor All-American Watch List, played for the EDGE Volleyball Club out of Las Vegas. Like her incoming classmate, Montero, Smith is also moving a long way from home to join the Jayhawks, but it’s a jump she’s ready to make.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of a strong volleyball team. It really didn’t matter the distance,” Smith said. “I know I’m going to miss my family and friends, but once I stepped foot on the KU campus I knew this college was for me.”
The daughter of Nathaniel and Zenith, Smith is undecided on a major at Kansas but has ambitions of a business management career after volleyball.
“I’m very excited,” Smith said. “It’s a new, positive environment with a great group of coaches and girls. I just know I’m going do great with all of the support I’m going to get from every single one of them.”
Kansas will hit the court at home on Wednesday, Nov. 19 against Iowa State. First serve from the Horejsi Family Athletics Center is set for 6:30 p.m. The match will be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel.
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