Salgado sets sights on next level

Whether it’s as a libero directing her teammates at the net or as a point guard running the offense, leadership has always come natural to Ashley Salgado.

It didn’t take long for Converse College women’s basketball coach Kaye Waldrep to see it in the Marshalltown Community College sophomore.

A standout in volleyball and basketball as well as the classroom, Salgado opted to continue her hoops career in Spartanburg, S.C., with the Valkyries. Salgado signed her National Letter of Intent Friday to play basketball at Converse College, a private Division II institution and member of the Conference Carolinas.

Waldrep was looking for some key contributors to help lead a Valkyrie resurgence after a 1-25 campaign last year and Salgado’s highlight video immediately stood out.

“The thing that attracted me most about Ashley is her floor leadership and the ability to hit open shooters and make good passes,” Waldrep said. “She’s very smart and very aggressive. She’s the nucleus of her team and that’s what we’re looking for. She has the ability to combine all those components at Converse.”

Salgado was a consistent contributor for the Tigers averaging 8.2 points a game in her career and starting 58 consecutive games, while not missing a single one during the 2013-14 season. The Ottumwa native twice was named to the Academic all-Region XI first team and also earned all-region third-team honors after leading the ICCAC in assists (6 per game). She also ranked in the top-10 of the league in steals (eighth), assist-to-turnover ratio (sixth) and free throw percentage (seventh) to help the Tigers post their highest win total (18) since the 2010-11 season.

Offering her a scholarship combining academics and athletics, Converse College had all the elements Salgado was looking for and her spring break visit to campus further cemented that decision after she got a chance to meet Waldrep and her future teammates.

“The feel of the campus was really homely,” Salgado said. “I loved the atmosphere, the coach was welcoming, and I got along really well with the girls. The chemistry with the whole thing just kind of led me there, I felt like it was right.”

An Iowan throughout her life, Salgado received interest from several Midwest programs including schools in Illinois, Kansas and Nebraska, though she already had her mind set on going to the Carolinas. Salgado chose Converse over Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina where she considered extending her volleyball career.

As the Tigers’ libero she earned ICCAC first-team all-conference recognition last fall after leading the league in digs per set (6.97) and finishing second in digs (796). Choosing between the two sports that she’s so passionate about was difficult, though ultimately her hoop dreams won out.

“Basketball has always been what I’ve been striving to do. I didn’t want to give up on that dream,” said Salgado, who led the state of Iowa in assists per game (6.9) as a senior at Ottumwa High School. “It’s kind of a goal I’ve always set for myself and so it’s nice to continue on with it.”

The Central Iowa Metropolitan League all-conference honoree will have the opportunity to continue her basketball journey right away as Waldrep expects Salgado to be a major contributor in her squad’s rotation.

“She will make an impact for us with her overall leadership ability along with the playing talent she has. Her experience is invaluable,” Waldrep said. “We’re getting a junior college player who is not only a great student but whose basketball IQ is just phenomenal. Having that leadership at the point guard position is what we’re eager to take advantage of. … She will be one of those players that will be hard to keep off the floor.”

MCC women’s basketball coach Steve Garber saw how invaluable Salgado was in his debut season with the Tigers and he’s confident the point guard will make an instant impact with the Valkyries.

“She’s going to be one of those players that allows the program to grow and develop to a higher level,” Garber said. “They’re getting a very explosive point guard that can run the show and push the ball up and down the floor. She’s an enthusiastic leader, has great energy and can play on both ends of the floor. They’ve got a very good one in Ashley to build their program to where they want it to go.”

In turn, Converse is extending the path for where Salgado wants to go as she plans to study Early Childhood Education while also developing an interest in coaching.

Moving to a new locale or choosing between your favorite sports are never easy decisions. Though they’re choices a leader must make and ones Salgado is confident in as she takes the next step in her journey as a student, athlete and leader.

“I’ve changed a lot (in my two years at MCC). Not only in sports but everything else,” Salgado said. “I’m starting to become more of who I am and I think that’s what made it easier to decide to go half way across the country.”