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Player of the Decade: Ashlyn Herlihy's dominance powered Arroyo Grande
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Player of the Decade

Player of the Decade: Ashlyn Herlihy's dominance powered Arroyo Grande

From the August 28 recap: Solvang news you may have missed this week series

The 2014-15 Arroyo Grande High girls basketball team didn't have a ton of depth, talent or experience. 

But the Eagles did have one thing: Ashlyn Herlihy.

The 6-foot-1 forward averaged 19.9 points and 12 rebounds a game that season, which was Herlihy's junior year. 

Herlihy's play was so good, in fact, she led the team to a 24-3 overall record, which included a 21-game win streak and an undefeated and untested run through the PAC 8 League. She was named the league MVP, the Times' All-Area MVP and the SLO County Player of the Year.

Herlihy was even better as a senior, averaging 22 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 5.5 blocks per game. (The Eagles went 20-8 that year and split the league title with Righetti and Herlihy was named the All-Area Offensive Player of the Year).

Herlihy has gone on to play at Santa Clara University. She redshirted there in 2016-17 and has grown into a starting role the last two seasons, averaging over 10 points and 7 rebounds a game. She earned All-West Coast Conference honors the last two years. She's started 61 games the last two seasons. 

Herlihy is the third nominee for the Times' Player of the Decade award. She joins former Cabrillo standout Erin Jenkins, a two-time All-Area MVP, and Righetti graduate Molly Schlemer, who earned All-Big West honors with Cal Poly after starring at Righetti.

The Times is polling current and former coaches to develop its list of nominees for Player of the Decade. Herlihy's name is nearly always one of the first to come up. 

"It's amazing to play with Ashlyn," then-teammate Meghan Smith said in 2015. "...She's just an awesome all-around player. Every time you give her the ball you know she's doing to do something good with it." 

When Herlihy signed with Santa Clara as a senior, her coach, Bryan Hutchens, said, "She's made such a commitment to our program. Seeing her as a freshman when we were sort of in a rebuilding mode, then to watch her mature and take us to an undefeated PAC 8 League championship and a 24-3 record for us, which is the highest winning percentage we can find going back in Arroyo Grande girls basketball history and it's a really storied program."

After graduating from Arroyo Grande in 2016, Herlihy redshirted at Santa Clara during the 2016-17 season. She then played in 27 games and made three starts as a redshirt freshman and led the team in field goal percentage, averaging 8.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. As a sophomore in 2018-19, Herlihy earned All-WCC honorable mention recognition after starting all the team's 31 games. She led her squad in rebounding (7.4 per game) and was second in scoring (10.9 ppg). 

As a junior last year, she again earned All-WCC honorable mention recognition while also earning WCC All-Academic honors. She started 30 games and led the team in rebounding and minutes. She averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game this past season. Herlihy had a double-double with 22 points and 18 rebounds against San Jose State. She scored a career-high 25 points against Menlo College as a freshman in 2017-18. 

Herlihy primarily relied on her size during her early days at Arroyo Grande, but has developed into a skilled player able to score as a forward or guard over the years. She's shot over three 3-pointers a game during her career at Santa Clara, making 34.5% of them. She shot 80% from the free throw line last year and is a career 73.7% shooter from the line during her college career. (She's made 43.8% of her field goals with the Broncos).

The rest of the nominees will be announced in the coming weeks before a reader tournament will be held to determine the girls basketball Player of the Decade. Readers will be able to vote online at santamariatimes.com; lompocrecord.com and syvnews.com.

St. Joseph High, which has yet to resume in-school instruction, reopened its campus to athletes on Monday, though all activities were held outdoors. For instance, basketball players were seen training on the school's tennis courts. Lompoc schools hope to start athletic activities by Sept. 8. Santa Maria public schools have yet to get approval to resume.

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Just look at the résumé: She earned All-Los Padres League honors all four years she played on varsity, being named to the Honorable Mention team as a freshman before landing on the First Team in her final three years, including the LPL Defensive MVP award in 2018 when she was a senior.

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