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Award puts cap on Smoot’s prolific career

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STEM Ashlyn Smoot’s high school career featured no shortage of accolades, and she has one more to add before beginning her college career in the fall.

The Granville Central High School graduate was named Female Athlete of the Year by HighSchoolOT last month. She beat out fellow nominees Sydney Dowler of Green Hope, Morgan Smalls of Panther Creek, Cydney Johnson of Heritage and Ashlyn Williams of Clinton.

“Being from a small school, it is hard to imagine being able to get enough votes to win the award,” a surprised Smoot said. “I thought the student-athletes from the larger schools would get the award without any problem.”

“She had people coming up to her at baseball games just to tell her they voted for her that day,” Granville Central soccer coach Gregg George said. “That is just the kind of person that she is, a quiet and unassuming leader that will go out of her way for anyone.”

Growing up, Smoot knew she loved to play volleyball and at an early age and that was her go-to sport. She tried softball, a little basketball and soccer, but she kept coming back to volleyball.

She was beginning to excel on the court and that carried over into the classroom. Smoot started helping her classmates understand how to complete some of their work.

“I really didn’t mind helping at all,” Smoot said. “People started expecting me to help them and I am glad they could look to me to help them through the classes.”

Smoot said her time at Northern Granville Middle School was great.

“I made so many new friends and as we got a little older we started hanging out more and doing more fun things.”

She continued to develop as an athlete playing volleyball and soccer for the Lady Knights. The transition to high school came easy for Smoot.

“We had volleyball workouts in the summer, so I had made some friends before we started school,” she said. “My brother and cousin were already here at Granville Central and they were here to guide me. I wasn’t nervous, but it was different.”

She started her freshman year on the jayvee volleyball team, but quickly made the move to varsity as the setter. The move made a positive impact on the team and thrust Smoot into a leadership role.

“Players knew they could lean on me and I would be there to support them,” she said. “I wish I had been a little more outspoken and more of a leader for this team.”

Smoot finished her volleyball career playing 122 sets for Granville Central. She had 538 total assists and averaged 4.4 assists per set. She served 117 aces and finished with 132 digs. She managed to finish her career with 26 kills for the Lady Panthers.

Smoot carried her success on the volleyball court over to the soccer field, where she ended her career with 82 goals and 84 assists. She was the captain of the team and earned all-conference honors her final three years. She was the 2016 Tar Roanoke 1A Player of the Year in soccer.

“We made those long rides to Halifax County and to West Columbus for playoffs, but there is something special about playing at home at Central,” Smoot said.

Smoot graduated as the 2019 salutatorian for Granville Central. She readily admits it was not easy balancing education and athletics. She often wished she had just a little more time to complete her school work and do a better job. Smoot said high school was competitive and everyone wanted to finish with the high grades.

“The competitive nature of this class definitely helped me a lot,” Smoot said. “I did not back down from it. Everyone was supporting and encouraging one another.”

Smoot mentioned her family during her graduation speech, and she shared more about them afterward.

“I’m not the type of person to show my emotions. It’s not often I tell my parents/family I love them, but I should,” she said. “I am very grateful for everything they have done. When I was little, they had to drive me around to practice and games. They always tried their best to be at every game and support me.

“I don’t say thank you enough to my coaches, I am grateful for them pushing me to be the best and allowing me to lead their team. I want to thank them for the extra work and time they have put in with me,” Smoot added.

George said he was excited to have a player that wanted to be the best that she could be.

“I didn’t mind coming out and spending two to three hours working on soccer skills because I knew she would put in the effort and it would pay off in the end,” George said.

Smoot said soccer is her favorite sport now and she plans on playing club soccer while in college. She thought about attending a smaller school and playing soccer, but she decided to attend a prominent state university.

“The choices came down to NCSU and Carolina,” she said.

Growing up a Wolfpack fan, N.C. State was her choice because she said it is the best fit for her. She has not decided on a major, but business is a possibility.

Smoot has two messages for student-athletes: practice makes perfect and don’t procrastinate.

“When you step on the court and field make sure you are giving it your all,” Smoot said. “Practice is important because the more you do something it will become a habit. As a student, go ahead and complete your work early. Don’t wait until the last minute because something will always prevent you from getting it done.”

Smoot leaves large shoes to fill for the Panthers on the court, on the field and in the classroom.