Ashley Sung readily admits that when she first showed up for work at one of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions last summer, the atmosphere seemed daunting.
“I was scared,” she said.
Sung’s trepidations were understandable.
The rising star on Canyon Crest Academy’s perennially dominant volleyball program was just months removed from her sophomore year when she met some of the world’s best and brightest minds along with some of the most sophisticated laboratory equipment at Stanford University’s immunology department.
Sung was part of a team assigned with analyzing characteristics of eosinophil white blood cells in a comparative study, and then presenting their findings to a Stanford immunology panel.
The research she conducted was part of a bigger study comparing the cell structures in those suffering from asthma and those who are not. Sung more than held her own in with the elite academics who took note of her work last year, inviting her back for another internship this summer.
“We weren’t sure if there was any correlation and my findings showed that there was a slight correlation, which was pretty interesting,,” Sung said. “It was very exciting. It took a long time and learning the new technology was really tough, but eventually I learned how to use everything up there and came to my conclusions.”
Sung seems to have a knack for figuring things out.
She’d barely played the sport of volleyball for a year when she became the only freshman to make the varsity three years ago. Sung came to the Ravens as a middle blocker, but has since been moved to outside hitter and right side positions. Sung is a collegiate prospect who projects to play outside hitter for a four-year school, Ravens coach Ariel Haas said, noting that he believes Sung could land at a Division I school.
Later this year Sung will take on a new role: She’ll be counted on for leadership as the only senior on the Ravens volleyball team. CCA graduated five players, including four starters. The Ravens will field a team with fewer than two seniors for the first time in program history, Haas said.
Sung’s ability to communicate with teammates and her easy way, along with an exceptional volleyball IQ and her ability to project confidence, make her well suited to her new role, Ravens coach Ariel Haas said.
“Because it’s her, I don’t anticipate there being any challenges,” Haas said.
That Sung inspires confidence in teammates and coaches is one of the main reasons Haas believes she’s one of the most undervalued players on his high-profile program, which he estimates has at least four players who’ll play Division I ball. Her height and excellent leaping ability make her a force on the court, Haas said, noting that she still needs to build strength to excel at the collegiate level, which she’s working on.
“She’s definitely flown under the radar, and that’s how she likes it,” Haas said. “She doesn’t need all the attention.”
Haas described Sung as the ultimate teammate with an enthusiasm for the game that’s infectious.
“The culture that kind of rubs off on everybody around her is kind of like ‘You only live once, have a fun time whenever you can,’” Haas said.
Sung prides herself for work ethic, determination and a will to win that’s more than most have.
“I think I’m willing to go the extra step to win because I’m really competitive and I want to win so badly,” she said. “Seeing other people succeed makes me want to succeed too.”
Sung has succeeded at just about every level. She played a key role in last season’s playoff run, which culminated with the Ravens advancing to the San Diego Section Open Division semifinals. Her Wave club team is playing in the Junior Nationals this summer for a second consecutive season.
Sung’s passion for volleyball drives her commitment to pursuing a collegiate career.
“Sports is a big reason that I’m able to explore competition and stuff outside of school,” she said. “Love for the sport is a big aspect as well.”
Sung considers herself fortunate to play with and compete against some of San Diego County’s top players. She’s gleaned some insights into what separates championship programs competing at an elite high school level at CCA.
“I think a big part of team sports is being a team player and not just playing for yourself but for those around you,” she said. “Playing for other people is a big key to success in volleyball. If you’re playing individually it definitely doesn’t work out as well. In a team setting that’s definitely more important in my eyes.”
And that playbook doesn’t just apply to volleyball.
“The ability to work with other people is a big aspect in sports and (doing lab work) at Stanford, to be able to interact and help others and let them help you,” Sung said. “With more minds knowledge is power, and you can excel in almost everything you do.”