Middle Tennessee's volleyball program experienced unprecedented success in a six-year stretch starting in 2006.
Along with seven combined regular-season and Sun Belt Conference tournament titles, the Blue Raiders advanced to six straight NCAA Tournaments and made it all the way to the Sweet 16 in 2007, the furthest the program has ever gone in the national tourney. They also made it to the second round in both 2006 and 2008.
The start of the run was anchored by a homegrown middle blocker.
Ashley Asberry grew up in Murfreesboro and attended Oakland High School. She grew an appreciation for her hometown school early on, dreaming of one day being able to slip on the blue and white jersey – be it in volleyball or basketball.
Now, with her induction this year, Asberry's No. 3 volleyball jersey will forever be immortalized in the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame.
"I grew up at MTSU," she said. "The Blue Raiders have helped mold me into the woman I am today. … MTSU is my home away from home."
Though she could have taken her talents elsewhere for college, Asberry chose to play volleyball for her hometown school.
She actually had an opportunity to instead play basketball for MT women's coach Rick Insell after being named to the all-state team during her senior year at Oakland, but chose to stick true to her commitment with volleyball coach Matt Peck.
"Family is a big deal for me, so I chose to stay close to home to help out," Asberry said. "I also wanted to watch my brothers grow up.
"Coach Insell actually did offer, but he was a little late to the party. Basketball held a special place in my heart, but I wanted to remain loyal to [Peck]. … They took a chance on me, so I owed that same energy to them."
As a freshman, Asberry didn't see the court much in the regular season, playing in only 16 matches and registering just 16 blocks.
When middle blocker Lindsay Sisco was forced out of the Sun Belt tournament with an injury, though, it was time for Asberry to shine.
She recorded 28 block assists, averaging 2.55 per game, as Middle Tennessee advanced to the finals before falling to rival WKU.
"I remember thinking, 'This is my time, and I'm not turning back,'" Asberry said. "Putting on the jersey that day was different … that day I had a point to prove, and nothing was going to keep me from that."
From that moment, Asberry turned into one of the greatest players in program history.
She was named to the all-conference first team as a sophomore, leading the conference in blocks and setting a program single-season record with 167 block assists. Then, as a junior and senior, she was named Honorable Mention All-American while setting another single-season block assists record (179) and becoming the first Blue Raider to record 500 career block assists (556), a record she still holds.
In 2007, Asberry guided MT to a 35-3 record and 16-1 mark in the Sun Belt. The Raiders advanced all the way to the Sweet 16, where they fell to BYU.
"The Sweet 16 run came from the blood, sweat and tears of not only us but our amazing coaching staff," Asberry said. "That may sound cliché, but it's the truth.
"I surely have a ton of memories throughout my career, but one I will never forget is beating Hawaii to advance to the Sweet 16 at the University of Louisville in 2007. We beat them in four, and my, my was the gym energized. Both our fans and some fans from other teams were cheering on every block and every kill. Every athletes' dream atmosphere."
Asberry graduated after the 2008 season, and after that the Blue Raiders experienced a few more years of high-level success, winning two Sun Belt tournament titles and one regular-season championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and 2010.
Middle Tennessee's finest hour in volleyball couldn't have come without the help of one of its best homegrown talents. She'll now be forever remembered by her university as a member of the Blue Raiders Sports Hall of Fame.
This is part of a series as we introduce the 2019 class of the Blue Raider Sports Hall of Fame.
Josh Vardaman is the staff writer for goblueraiders.com. Follow him on Twitter @J_Vardaman
and also follow @MTAthletics for more on the Blue Raiders.