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Ayden Ames to ‘fill some big shoes’ with Texas volleyball
(Courtesy: @aydenames/Instagram)

Ayden Ames to ‘fill some big shoes’ with Texas volleyball

PROSPER, Texas (BVM) – Growing up, Ayden Ames seemed bound to be a soccer star. Despite her mom being around volleyball her entire life, Ames had no interest in the sport.

“I actually really did not like volleyball because my mom was a volleyball coach,” Ames said. “I was always dragged in the gym, I was forced to watch practices and tournaments. I was really turned off by the sport. It did not sound like anything that I wanted to do.”

By the time Ames was 12, her mom convinced her to give volleyball a chance. Soon, Ames developed a passion for the sport that led her to become one of the top high school players in the country.

“I just ended up falling in love with it because I really think that I had a natural talent,” Ames said.

Ames is ranked No. 3 nationally in the Class of 2024 and is an offensively gifted player thanks to her height and athleticism. While there is pressure to live up to the expectations of being one of the best in the country, the 6-foot-4 middle blocker seeks to prove her talent every time she plays.

“There’s pressure everywhere you go,” Ames said. “Every article that comes out, every ranking that comes out, people will look at you like you need to prove something. My mindset is that I go out on the court and I want to show you why I was ranked this way.”

A lot of Ames’ success in volleyball can be traced back to her mother, Laura Ames. Laura was a former collegiate player at Lewis University in Illinois and later became a coach at a couple of Division III schools in the state.

By the late 1990s, Laura began coaching at USC and eventually transitioned to the men’s side, becoming the first woman to coach men’s volleyball at the NCAA Division I level.

Through her experience, Laura has taught her daughter the ins and outs of the sport, something Ayden has not taken for granted. 

Ayden Ames Texas Longhorns NCAA women's college volleyball Prosper High School
Ayden Ames will follow in her mom’s footsteps as a college volleyball player with the Texas Longhorns. (Courtesy: @aydenames/Instagram)

“I could not be more grateful for it,” Ayden said. “She’s able to coach me not just in a coach way, but in a mom way too. I just get the best of both worlds from her.

“I look up to her in so many ways as a role model, a leader and a mentor. Having my mom with me on this journey was such a help.”

Ayden’s journey in the sport hasn’t been as long as some, but it has been every bit as successful. While playing at the club level in California during middle school, Ayden was already receiving college interest.

That continued during her transition to Prosper High School as her family moved to Texas going into her sophomore year which was a difficult, but valuable experience.

“I learned so much,” Ayden said. “I’m so grateful for that because I’m using those skills that I learned then in my game now.”

By her junior season, Ayden took her game to a new level, racking up 564 kills, 256 digs, 97 blocks and 20 aces.

“Junior season was a very big year for me,” Ayden said. “I really kicked it into high gear.”

That set the stage for Ayden’s senior season where she had 575 kills, 481 digs, 165 blocks, 31 assists and 30 aces. With new head coach Ashlee McCormick bringing out her full potential, Ayden helped lead the Eagles to state for the first time since 2017.

“This year I definitely thought the sky’s the limit,” Ayden said. “I knew I wanted to go as far as I could and I wanted to lead my team as much as I could.

“This year has been such a memorable year for me. My team and I, we’ve done so many good things.”

Ayden has had some other tremendous moments during her volleyball career thus far as well, including being named an Under Armour All-American.

“Ever since last year, this has been a big goal of mine,” Ayden said. “It was an amazing feeling … Just knowing all of the work that I’ve put in over the summer and over these past couple of years, it’s been so relieving knowing that I got to accomplish something huge like that.”

Another achievement is Ayden’s time playing with USA Volleyball which included winning the FIVB U19 World Championship in Croatia this past summer.

“My time with USA Volleyball has been something that I’ll never forget,” Ayden said. “Representing my country was a feeling like no other and being able to do it at such a young age has made me so grateful … It really has fulfilled me. It’s also motivated me to go further.”

Ayden hopes to eventually represent her country on the USA Volleyball women’s national team and compete in the Olympics.

“That is the highest level you could possibly reach and doing it while representing my country is just a dream,” Ayden said.

Despite all she has already accomplished, some of the biggest moments of Ayden’s career are still ahead as she plays in college. Initially, Ayden committed to play for NCAA volleyball powerhouse Nebraska during a hectic recruiting process.

Ayden Ames Texas Longhorns NCAA women's college volleyball Prosper High School USA Volleyball
Ayden Ames had an opportunity to win a world championship with USA Volleyball this past summer. (Courtesy: @aydenames/Instagram)

“At that time I was very confident, I was completely set on where I wanted to go,” Ayden said.

However, as time wore on, the Prosper senior felt that there could be a better fit elsewhere.

“As you get older, your priorities change and different schools can change over the years,” Ayden said. “I took time to reflect and decided the best fit for me could be another school.”

Before long, Ayden became interested in staying home with the Texas Longhorns and officially signed to play for coach Jerritt Elliott – who worked with Ayden’s mom at USC – on Nov. 9.

“I got on campus with the girls and I absolutely loved the feel there, I think it’s a great fit for me,” Ayden said. “I am over the moon. Being able to represent a group of girls that are so talented is something that I’ve never even imagined. I can’t wait to elevate my game to the next level.”

Just a couple of weeks ago, Ayden watched as the team she used to be committed to, Nebraska, took on the Longhorns in the national championship game. Despite the Huskers being the top overall seed, Texas dominated to win back-to-back national championships.

“Watching that game was kind of an out-of-body experience,” Ayden said. “Watching my Texas team, I was so proud of them and I am so happy for them.”

Texas will lose some key players from its championship squad heading into 2024, one being middle blocker Asjia O’Neal, who Ayden will be tasked with replacing.

“I get to fill some big shoes with Asjia O’Neal leaving,” Ayden said. “I’m just excited to step up to that challenge.”

Ayden Ames Texas Longhorns NCAA women's college volleyball Prosper High School
Ayden Ames will be tasked with replacing Longhorns standout Asjia O’Neal once she gets to Austin. (Courtesy: @aydenames/Instagram)

Not only will Ayden try to match O’Neal’s play on the court, but she will also continue the ties the Texas program has to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. O’Neal, as well as teammates Jenna Wenaas, Kenna Miller and Molly Phillips, also played high school volleyball in the area like Ayden.

“Representing my home state is so important to me and even though I’ve only been here for a couple of years, I seriously consider this place home,” Ayden said. “Just being able to have Texas across my chest, knowing that this is my home state, it’s so cool.”

With the success Texas is having under Elliott and the culture that is in place, Ayden believes the sky’s the limit during her time in Austin.

“My first goal is to win a national championship, and now that Texas has proved you can win two in a row, I would say win two national championships, or three national championships, as many as I can,” Ayden said. “I just want to max out my full potential while I’m there.”

However, what’s most important to the volleyball star is laying a foundation for younger players to look up to, similar to what her mom did for her.

“I just hope to represent Texas in a great way,” Ayden said. “I hope that I can be a good role model for all the young girls who want to play volleyball and all the girls who want to play Texas volleyball. I hope I can create a scene that they want to be a part of.”