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Redshirt senior Ayers brings leadership, Final Four experience to volleyball squad

Jacob Konst/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Redshirt senior Angie Ayers has seen limited playing time since joining the Wildcats in 2001, thanks to two ACL injuries during her college career. Ayers, who graduated in May, has decided to use her fifth year of eligibility to play a mentoring role for the team's younger players.
By Lindsey Frazier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
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If the old adage holds - that with age comes experience - then redshirt senior middle blocker Angie Ayers has collected more wherewithal in her five years on the Arizona volleyball team than any of her teammates.

Since joining the team in 2001, Ayers has seen it all. As a redshirt freshman, Ayers was part of the Wildcats' 2001 Final Four team.

"Basically you could see just from coming out of that team what it takes to win," she said.

Ayers helped lead Arizona to an Elite Eight appearance in 2002, averaging 1.08 blocks per game, and was named an honorable mention to the freshman All-Pacific 10 Conference team.

In 2003, Ayers used a medical redshirt after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament. She recovered, only to re-injure her ACL last year.

Ayers, who graduated in May, said this year doesn't feel like her senior campaign after experiencing so many different teams and overcoming so many obstacles.

"It's always, like, the three seniors (Kim Glass, Jennifer Abernathy and Bre Ladd), and then the people under that," she said. "I'm never really put in that category just because I've been here for so long. I've been through a lot of different teams."

Ayers has been a part of Arizona longer than some of her coaches - assistant coach Steve Walker joined the team in 2003 - and she said she plays a significant leadership role.

"I am more of support system, I feel, especially for younger kids," said Ayers, who has played in three games this season. "I'm definitely easygoing, and I try to keep the balance of the team together. Basically, I just want to be there for my teammates. They're my support system and they've helped me along through this whole thing."

Ayers said she decided to come back this season, despite having graduated, to prove her resiliency.

"I've always just been determined," she said. "I have it in my head I'm not a quitter. I'm not going to quit despite who or what situation wants to me quit. I wanted to show that I can work through this."

Although she is not always able to contribute to the team in tangible ways on the court, Arizona head coach Dave Rubio said she is an integral component of the Wildcat squad.

"She's been a very positive influence. She's great with the team," he said. "So she's contributing quite a bit, even though she's not playing a lot. She's contributing in other areas that help make our team better."

He added that Ayers has earned the right to travel with the team because of her leadership qualities and competitive nature.

"Coming back from two ACL (injuries) and playing in a reserve role right now and working as hard as she does and being a positive influence as she is on the team, I think, is remarkable," he said. "I have a lot of respect for her because how difficult it is for her to be in that role."

Fellow middle blocker Kristina Baum said Ayers may be the most competitive athlete on the team.

"She does so much for our team, and I don't think she gets the credit that she deserves at all," she said. "She's a soldier - (her situation) takes so much pride and energy and heart and dedication. It's incomparable."

Ayers said she's eligible for a sixth year, but will not apply for it.

Instead, she plans to focus on the tasks that confront all seniors - applying for jobs, interviewing and continuing her education.

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