Center Grove grad enjoying her time with Eckerd volleyball

Pass the sunscreen because, geographically speaking, life’s a beach for Ashley Eck.

As some point, the former Center Grove defensive specialist figured roughly two decades of living in Indiana were enough, putting the wheels in motion for an eventual transfer to Eckerd College, a Division II school in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“I originally transferred because I wanted to go somewhere warmer,” said Eck, a who played two seasons at Indiana State before putting her name in the transfer portal. “I also wanted to have a better experience with culture.

“Being here at Eckerd, that’s exactly what I’ve found. When I got here, there were a bunch of transfers, so everyone was so welcoming.”

Or, shall we say, warm.

And if Eck gravitates toward anything, it’s warmth.

“It still hasn’t hit me, but I’m living close to where I used to come on spring break,” Eck said, laughing. “I’m definitely taking advantage of every day. Every practice and every game.

“The goal is for us to win a national championship, and I think it’s definitely possible.”

An undeniable sense of urgency is attached to Eck’s words.

On pace to graduate from Eckerd in May with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications, she is a junior in terms of athletic eligibility. Nonetheless, Eck, who desires to one day play professional volleyball overseas — preferably, and, not surprisingly, at some warm coastal destination — plans to leave Eckerd after the 2023-24 school year.

How she ended up there is, in some part, attributed to a simple game of name association. Eck … Eckerd … oh, so fitting.

During her time at Indiana State, Eck played in 51 matches, totaling 516 digs — credentials that immediately warranted attention from coaches at all levels.

Count Eckerd’s Michelle Piantadosi-Lima among them.

“We had recruited Ashley when she was in high school,” recalls Piantadosi-Lima, the Tritons’ coach since 2012. “When I saw her name in the portal, I was like, ‘I remember that name.’

“As soon as Ashley reached out, it was a no-brainer for us. She was just our kind of people. It’s the character of the person. If you don’t have the right people, you won’t be able to handle the hard times.”

Those have been few and far between for Eck, a third-team all-Sunshine State Conference selection in 2022 who helped lead the Tritons to a 24-7 record and a berth in the NCAA South Regional in Tampa.

Eckerd is off to a 9-2 start this season heading into Tuesday night’s match at Florida Southern, with Eck setting the pace in digs with 182.

Members of Eck’s family get to as many matches as possible despite the distance away; Ashley’s younger sister Emily is a freshman at the University of Tampa, which helps.

For now, Eckerd volleyball plans to appreciate what it has in Eck for as many matches remain this season.

“Ashley is the rock of our team,” Piantadosi-Lima said. “She’s one of our best players, and our hardest worker. She’s there, and she wants to win.”