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home : news : news June 29, 2015

1/2/2014 10:48:00 AM
Mathews' granddaughter a volleyball all-American

by Ken Haggerty

On a recent cold November day at his rural Hampton Township residence off of Dakota County 47, Dick Mathews had the road atlas out again. His granddaughter, Ashley Wittman, was heading to Lexington, Kentucky for the NCAA volleyball's sweet sixteen with her University of Minnesota team and Dick and his wife, Sharon, would be making the drive to see her compete once again.

Dick and Sharon have been looking at maps for over a decade now, figuring out where Ashley was playing next since she was in traveling youth all-star teams as a young girl.

Following Ashley's journey has taken the Mathews near and far. Off the top of his head, Dick recalls trips to San Diego, Denver, Orlando, Naperville, Miami and all the Big Ten campuses except Michigan. A ten-day trip this year took them to see games against Nebraska, Iowa, Ohio State and Penn State (a volleyball powerhouse where the game was sold-out).

Dick and Sharon were such a regular fixture at games that Ashley's Gopher teammates would even call them Grandma and Grandpa, scanning the crowd during pregame to wave a hello.

Closer to home, the University is also a volleyball powerhouse and ranked in the top-five in attendance averaging over 4,000 fans a game. In addition to the sweet sixteen game this year, Ashley played in an elite eight in 2012, and sweet sixteens in 2011 and 2010.

Ashley is the daughter of Paul Wittman (Randolph High School class of '85) and Kristen (Mathews) Houle (Hastings High School class of '86). Kristen was the Cannon Falls Beacon's "First Baby of the Year" in 1968.

Ashley grew up in Shakopee with her mom and step-father where she excelled in volleyball. In addition to being part of Minnesota's top AAU traveling team, the six foot-tall Ashley was a first-team All-State player three times for Shakopee, leading the team to three straight State championships. She was named the national Gatorade High School Volleyball player of the year as a senior.

At the University of Minnesota, Ashley was named a second-team All-American as a sophomore and a senior (honorable-mention as a junior). She just finished her senior season (they lost to seven-seed Stanford in Lexington) at the University. She leaves as the school's sixth ranked all-time player in kills (1,778) and fourth ranked all-time player in digs (1,510). The multi-skilled Wittman rarely comes off the court as a six-rotation player.

She's heading to Puerto Rico on January 2 to play professional volleyball for Indias de Mayaguez. She was a sports medicine major and may look for a career in coaching after her volleyball playing days are over.

The Mathews have lived in Hampton since 1971. Dick is a Marine Corps Veteran. He is originally from the New Richland, MN area. Sharon is a Hampton native, the daughter of Ray Erickson and Marcella (Doffing) Erickson. She grew up spending time watching ball games at Hampton's ball field, named after a relative, Harold Doffing. Her brothers, Larry and Wayne Erickson, were also stand-out baseball players. Larry played at St. John's before getting into medicine.

Sharon worked at the Cannon Falls hospital as a nurse with Drs. Klefstad and Williams and others from 1964 to 1984 before moving to the Hastings Clinic with Allina. She has specialized in diabetic education.

The Mathews are members of St. Mathias parish in Hampton and have been members of the Hampton Boosters. In addition to Kristen, they have two other daughters, Kelly and Molly.

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