Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
PORTSMOUTH — Notre Dame’s Ava Hassel is all business on the court.
Her infectious energy is as evident off of the floor as her play on it indicates.
Over the past two seasons, Hassel’s averaged 10.4 points, 3.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game — including averages of 11.1 points, 3.6 assists, three rebounds, and 2.4 steals after coming off knee surgery following last year’s Division IV regional semifinal loss to Waterford.
However, Hassel’s also a talented backline volleyball player, as proven by her freshman year stats [135 digs, 10 aces, 31 assists, 30 kills] and is a person who is expected to bring a great deal to the softball diamond with her relentless motor.
We got the opportunity to catch up with Ava prior to Notre Dame’s Division IV regional semifinal matchup with Peebles to discuss Notre Dame’s family culture, her coaches, what the Titans have accomplished over the past two seasons, and much more.
Question: How has it felt to represent Notre Dame and be a part of the Titans’ girls basketball program?
Hassel: It truly is an honor. I love to get to represent our program. It’s an awesome feeling to have a team that feels so much like a family, because we are all so close with each other. We have the best coaches that care for us and are always there to help us through any decision we need … not just basketball.
Q: What did you expect as you transitioned from middle school basketball to high school basketball?
AH: I played a lot of travel basketball in the summer before freshman year and faced a lot of good competition. That experience helped me to get ready for the intensity of high school ball. Still, when I came into my freshman year, I knew I had a lot of work to do, especially on the defensive side. I was very excited for high school ball and it’s been a blast so far.
Q: In addition to being the basketball talent that you are, you made a big impact on the back line from a volleyball standpoint under Kelsey Glockner in your freshman year. You were also going to play softball last year with a lot of the same girls that are your best friends [a knee injury against forced Hassel to miss her freshman softball and sophomore volleyball seasons]. What do you like about both sports?
AH: I love the pace of volleyball. Everyone’s always got to be on their toes all the time. Volleyball has such a team aspect to it and a lot of trust is built behind our team. I haven’t played softball since little league, but I’m planning on playing this spring and I am honestly so excited. I just think it’s the most fun to dive after fly balls and slide after stealing a base. I really have missed it, so it’ll be fun to see how rusty I am.
Q: What’s it like playing under coach Glockner and coach McKenzie? They both are similar in their intensity and how they care about you all as individuals off of the floor.
AH: They are both really great coaches and they both know what they are talking about on the court, as well as off the court. They always push us to be our best in everything that we do. Coach McKenzie has especially helped me so far in my career to help me make it to the next level of basketball. All of us girls have such great relationships with both of our coaches so it creates a bond and is definitely part of our success.
Q: How has it felt being a part of school history? You are a part of the school’s first two district titles in girls basketball and part of the school’s first two regional final volleyball teams. You guys are changing the game in multiple sports.
AH: It really is an amazing feeling. We are put to a test everyday in our practices and learn to not settle for anything less than what we can and want to achieve. Making deep tournament runs in both sports these past two years has been such an exciting time. We get so much support from our community and it’s very special, and we are all so grateful.
Q: What has your older sister, Sophia, meant to you, especially playing alongside her?
AH: Well, we really haven’t had the chance to play alongside each other except for about the first half of our regular season this year, due to both of us getting injured. But throughout our injuries [which have led to two knee surgeries for Sophia and one for Ava], we have both learned so much from them. She has helped me out from the sidelines and we have always had each other’s back. We cheer for each other’s success and care for one another. She really does mean a lot to me and is truly my best friend. I don’t know what I would do without her.
Q: Have you received any collegiate interest so far?
AH: I have had my highlight video sent out to some colleges, and I went on an unofficial visit to Youngstown State in the fall. So I have been in contact with a few colleges.
Q: What are your future goals, inside and outside of sports?
AH: I am really interested in playing basketball at the college level. I love this sport so much. I just don’t think I will be able to give it up after my high school career. Outside of sports, I have thought about a lot of different options, but I haven’t narrowed down what path I want to take. I want to wait until something comes up that just clicks and I know that’s what I want to do.