It’s been nearly a year and a half since Ashley Fantazia last graced an indoor volleyball court at the professional level, but with her recent signing by France’s Bordeaux Merignac Volley, she’s finally back.
“It was actually a fairly sudden situation. I was in the gym, doing bear crawls downstairs, when my agent gave me a call on my phone and said there was a team in France who had three players between injury and retirement,” Fantazia said. “They were in a tough spot and needed an outside hitter.”
With rehab for her shoulder complete and a season’s contract penned and finalized, Fantazia is ready to help her club—in its first year in existence after a two-team merger—develop into a seasoned group of players.
“It’s a good step for me, coming off an injury and stepping back into the competition field, to where I will have an opportunity to create something more for myself in the future,” Fantazia said. “I’m kind of stepping in to show that leadership role. From day one I took it upon myself to take that player-coach role to help these girls, because you’re only going to be as good as your other teammates.”
Already two months into the season, Bordeaux Merignac Volley is currently tied for first place in its league. But despite her new club’s eagerness to add her to the roster and her drive to again compete in the sport she loves, Fantazia has yet to officially compete in a match; a product of international paperwork.
“Even though everything’s set here on this end, I have to wait for some paper work to be transferred over from the USA and Portuguese volleyball federations, so we’re kind of just waiting on that right now,” Fantazia said. “I can’t compete in any of the matches until that does happen.”
When she is finally cleared to play, there’s no doubt that her volleyball experience—as a player and coach—will come in handy for a club searching for a new identity. Full of players from the former Merignac Volley and JSA clubs, the roster is one of youth in need of consistency and direction.
“The competition level is not quite as high as I’m used to, as far as winning a national championship with the team in Portugal and playing for very successful college programs, but they are a club that is definitely investing in the future,” Fantazia said. “There’s a lot of potential.”
Until the time comes to hit the court once again, Fantazia is content to train and lead her team from the sidelines as she’s learned through her years in the sport that there are many ways to be a good teammate.
“I really thrive in the situation where I’m forced to be a leader and forced to be an example,” Fantazia said. “A lot of people come off of an injury and their passion dies and they have this depressed feeling inside. I just want to relive my dream and right now I’m getting a second opportunity to do so.”