Ashtyn Richey was one of the most dominant volleyball players to ever wear the green and white jersey, signed to play at Southern Methodist University in November 2015 and was on cloud nine.
But her dream of a perfect start to her college career hit a road block.
Richey went to have hernia surgery in May 2016 just before graduating from Prosper High School and was sidelined for 10 weeks until the week she left for SMU.
After nearly a year of battles, Richey found out she had a benign tumor on her pituitary gland. It eventually shrunk, but by then the SMU season was underway and the former Lady Eagles standout had to get back into game shape.
The troubles didn’t stop there – two months later, she had to get another hernia procedure and was ruled out of the entire season.
“My freshman season of my childhood dream was over,” Richey said. “I was unable to travel to the away games, dress out at home matches and really struggled with getting to know my team and them getting to know me. I dealt with a lot of mental health things and through all of the craziness, I was in Pre-Med and school was not easy.”
Even with all the hormone complications, abnormal weight gain and severe headaches, it was then that Richey would turn to an important figure in her life.
“At first, I was angry and just really wanted everyone to feel sorry for me, but then I learned to see it as ‘why not me’ – God is trying to show me something and I believe that it was to experience life without volleyball and to learn who I am and how to take care of myself,” Richey said. “It may sound selfish, but it helped me also learn how to be there for others because I know what it’s like to be in the lowest of lows and all I could do was make sure not to let it ruin me and to constantly care for others and support my teammates.”
Richey got a second chance at her new volleyball life when she decided to transfer and commit to Houston Baptist University on April 23. She joins Prosper teammate Abby Gargus.
“My ultimate reason for transferring in the first place was being able to go somewhere as a redshirt and getting a second chance at starting a new life,” she said. “I felt that with everything that happened being so sudden and uncontrollable, I wanted the chance to experience college volleyball all four years, and be somewhere that I could start over after everything.”
“HBU made me feel like I had a real chance to do great things for their program and I liked how they ran their team and their style of coaching,” Richey added.
In high school, Richey was a two-time all-district pick while at Pilot Point during her freshman and sophomore years of 2012 and 2013. She had 323 kills, a .439 hitting percentage and 88 blocks her sophomore season.
She finished her prep career at Prosper where the Lady Eagles went to the regional final in 2014 and regional quarterfinals in 2015.
Richey was first-team all-district and first-team all-state her senior year. She had 338 kills, 61 blocks and 17 aces.
Playing alongside Gargus at Prosper gets Richey excited for the future, she said.
“I consider Abby to be one of my closest friends and we have been talking to each other the whole process,” she said. “At first, I made sure to ask her if she was OK with it. I wanted to make sure she didn’t feel like I was taking away any aspect of HBU from her and that she was OK with me being there. I think it was important because if she was on board, it was only going to help our relationship grow and her opinion and happiness matter a lot to me.”
“I’m so excited about playing with a Prosper teammate,” Richey added. “Abby has such a sweet soul and she is so talented. Abby is definitely the person I go to for a good laugh and advice and I’m really looking forward to the fun times.”
Richey, who says she’s healthy again with no lingering symptoms, should contribute and start for HBU and could be a solid player when it’s all said and done. She thanks family and friends, and SMU for this journey.
“SMU has been a giant blessing and I’m so thankful for the opportunities that they gave me and giving me the chance to even stay here when they didn’t have to,” she said. “My family and friends have been so supportive and I couldn’t be more thankful for them all.”