It was the weekend of Aug. 17, the second tournament of the high school volleyball season. Boyd was in Glen Rose, but with a break, the team decided to get snow cones.
The Lady Jackets waited in line. In the back was senior Ashley Fouts.
She wasn’t concerned with cones yet. Instead, Fouts was having a conversation with a woman and a boy she was with.
“That’s the one thing about Ashley, she was very nice to everyone no matter who it was,” Boyd coach Dusty Crafton said. “I remember Ashley talking to them like she knew them her entire life. She was very friendly and sweet.”
Fouts started her high school days at Justin Northwest, the same school her sister Nicole played volleyball for, until the family moved 20 miles west to Boyd following her sophomore year.
“I was so fortunate to have had the opportunity to coach her and her sister. Loved getting to know them and their family,” Northwest coach Jennifer Chandler said. “Ashley was fun, full of energy and had a quirky sense of humor. She was an amazing athlete and enjoyed competition.”
A middle blocker and right-side hitter, Fouts was part of the Boyd program that reached the UIL state tournament in 2018. It was the second straight season, but first time playing for the title, where they lost to Callisburg, 3-1, in the Class 3A final.
She was to be a key piece of the team this fall, which was trying to go to Garland for the third consecutive year.
Boyd, which is ranked No. 2 in 3A, celebrated a win over Ponder on Tuesday Sept. 3 and was off until the following week.
However, after going to sleep that Wednesday, Fouts wouldn’t say another word.
She died in her sleep that night at the age of 17.
Fouts had suffered from Long QT syndrome (LQTS), which is defined as “a heart rhythm condition that can potentially cause fast, chaotic heartbeats. Rapid heartbeats may trigger a sudden fainting spell or seizure. In some cases, the heart can beat erratically for so long that it causes sudden death.”
“She was always so positive, laughing about everything and helping us out on the court. During our first tournament, we were roommates at the hotel and stayed up until 1 in the morning just talking and sharing stories with each other,” Boyd defensive specialist Kamryn Frenzel said. “In her last few weeks, she was the happiest I have ever seen her and I’m so grateful that she was. We became really close this year and she showed me how to be kind, and guided me to be like her. She was truly beautiful, inside and out.”
Be Kind Like Nine
Just a few hours after her passing, the Boyd volleyball team began painting the windows at the high school to pay tribute for their fallen teammate.
“We love you Ashley” and “Be Kind Like Nine” started to fill up the gym.
Former high school and club teammates and other Texas schools got wind of it and started to pay their respects. Friends came over to the Fouts’ house and wrote messages all over Ashley’s bedroom.
The football players presented the volleyball team with blue roses before their Week 2 game with Holliday.
“I miss her smile everyday,” Boyd volleyball assistant coach Ashley Watson said. “She was the sweetest girl with a smile that could light up a room. She could put up a mean block on the court and put the ball away with ease. Missing her like crazy.”
“Ashley was always sweet and willing to play wherever we needed her,” Crafton added.
Teams that Boyd never played or even heard of started to send gifts. People from Minnesota and Kansas too.
Fouts’ funeral service was Sept. 11. The venue holds 700. Over 1,000 showed up to pay their respects, including the volleyball team from Nocona.
Boyd had just won the Nocona tournament the week before. Fouts was named to the all-tournament team with 20 kills and 13 blocks.
“Even after she moved, I loved that she would come up and hug me, and had something happy to say about what was going on with her. Her family was always supportive and attended all games and functions,” Chandler said. “Love them and praying for comfort and peace during this difficult time.”
“Just so much kindness from all the schools and I think it’s because everyone is hurting,” Crafton added.
Return To Play
Fouts’ favorite color was blue. Teams across the Metroplex starting wearing blue warmup shirts and blue ribbons.
Every girl on Boyd wore No. 9 just before every match and the Lady Jackets always entered the court with her game jersey. They would save her a seat and save her spot in the lineup during introductions.
During Boyd’s first game since her passing, the Lady Jackets hosted Bridgeport on Sept. 10 and won 3-0.
“It was really good for us and I felt like we were playing for her and her memory. It was really important for us to be successful that night,” Crafton said.
“It was an emotional roller coaster for sure,” Boyd teammate Victoria Pellegrini added. “Her parents actually came and talked to us. They said Ashley would’ve wanted us to play, to go out there and to win.”
Boyd hosted Brock Tuesday night. The Eagles gave the family and team blue roses and held a post-game prayer.
“We wanted to show Boyd and the family that we care, not just Brock, but the whole volleyball community,” Brock senior Jessie Steele said. “Losing someone is really hard so our hearts went out to them.”
Boyd will retire Fouts’ jersey during senior night on Oct. 29.
Long QT Awareness
Fouts was diagnosed with LQTS during her sophomore year at Northwest.
She was Type 2, which Stanford Health Care defines as “insufficient potassium ion activity in the heart. This deficiency prevents proper electrical function in the heart and leads to arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). Emotional stress, surprise, and startling can cause arrhythmias. A common trigger is sudden, loud noises such as alarm clocks or car horns.”
Fouts’ wasn’t exercise triggered. She just had to stay hydrated and take medicine.
It’s a rare disorder and can be genetic, and in most cases, people don’t know they have LQTS until it’s too late.
According to the HuffPost, “most people with congenital LQTS can be treated effectively with daily beta-blocker medication, which slows the heart rate and diminishes the risk of dangerous heart rhythms. Patients who continue to have symptoms despite beta-blocker therapy may need a surgically implanted cardioverter defibrillator, a small device similar to a pacemaker that helps control abnormal arrhythmias and prevent cardiac arrest and sudden death.”
The Fouts family was looking at November for possible surgery on Ashley.
“Even though there’s no cure for LQTS, many deaths can be prevented through early diagnosis, proper precautions and appropriate treatment,” the HuffPost continued to say.
Fouts’ mother, Elizabeth, grew up in Justin. Nicole graduated in 2017, the same class as Camryn Berryhill.
Fouts was a freshman during the 2016 season.
“I’ll always remember Ashley as just a little freshman and eager to learn and develop in all aspects. She was always cheering for the varsity after her games and was always willing to help,” Berryhill said. “She was kind, a teammate to everyone in the program, but always everyone’s biggest fan. She was gentle yet fierce and humble, but confident. She loved her people and I know Nicole was so proud to call Ashley her little sister.”
Berryhill went through hardship as well. Tuesday, Sept. 24 marked three years since her dad’s passing.
The Fouts family was there for her.
“Their family was always there for my family after my dad passed away, so I’m overjoyed that Northwest is paying it forward for yet another family who unexpectedly lost someone,” Berryhill said. “Ashley was growing into such an amazing young woman and athlete. She would’ve had one helluva senior season.”
Northwest senior setter Morgan Andress knew Fouts since the fifth grade.
Fouts is the reason Andress got into volleyball.
“Ashley was one of the first people to come introduce herself to me the first day of fifth grade. I had just moved to Texas and she was always so welcoming and always had a smile on her face. She made sure everyone felt included. I played with her during fifth and sixth grade then they asked me to join her team in seventh grade,” Andress said. “I was so nervous, but Ashley helped calm me down. She told me to just play and enjoy myself. If it wasn’t for her and her mom, I wouldn’t be the volleyball player I am today.”
Fouts was a member of the freshman team as a ninth grader at Northwest. Then joined the junior varsity a year later.
“No matter what was going on in her personal life, she always wanted to make sure everyone else around her was happy,” Andress said. “Her love and passion for the game always showed. She was apart of the Northwest volleyball community ever since she was a toddler and we constantly talked about how we couldn’t wait to play for the high school.”
Fouts was to play for Texas Image’s top team this season, under the direction of Janine Smith, who is the head coach at Chisholm Trail. She previously coached at UT-Arlington and was an All-American at Texas.
“Ashley is the type of player that can come in and make an immediate impact. She was new to our gym and started connecting with teammates with her infectious smile and immediately made others around her better,” Smith said. “She showed great energy and was always positive. She will be greatly missed and we will do our best to honor her positive energy and great attitude.”
Fouts had played for Club 940 last summer along with Pellegrini.
Pellegrini remembers Fouts as a “fireball of energy.”
“She was the kindest person you’d ever meet,” Pellegrini said. “She would put the biggest smile on your face if you were ever having a bad day. She would become friends with anyone.”
Boswell senior McKenna Leveling, who played with Fouts when they were 14, remembers her positive attitude.
“I played club with her and no matter if we were losing or winning, she always had such a positive attitude. She found the good in everything and in everyone,” Leveling said. “The most memorable thing about Ashley was her kind smile and her goofy laugh. She was always cracking jokes or dancing around. I’m dedicating my soccer season to her.”
Eaton senior Kiya Yeoman recalls Fouts helping through her first year in club.
“Her spirit helped me adjust during my first year of club ball in Texas. She was a joy to have as a teammate and her energy fired me up and helped me to become the energetic player I am today,” Yeoman said. “Her laugh was contagious and so distinguished that I will always remember it. She was a kind soul with a big heart and immense love for those around her. She made the game fun to play and I thank God that He put her in my life.”
“The Northwest and Boyd volleyball teams were both very lucky to have had the opportunity to play with Ashley and she helped so many girls grow tremendously through volleyball,” Andress added. “She was an insanely strong, motivated, kind and outgoing beautiful young lady.”