High School Sports

Arroyo Grande girls basketball standout Herlihy picks Santa Clara

Arroyo Grande High’s Ashlyn Herlihy drives around Tesoro's Kasey Smit during a Feb. 25 CIF-Southern Section girls basketball playoff game at Arroyo Grande.
Arroyo Grande High’s Ashlyn Herlihy drives around Tesoro's Kasey Smit during a Feb. 25 CIF-Southern Section girls basketball playoff game at Arroyo Grande. Joe Johnston

The decision was made privately weeks ago, but Arroyo Grande High girls basketball standout Ashlyn Herlihy finally let everyone else in on the secret with a Twitter post at noon Wednesday.

Herlihy has verbally committed to accept a full-ride scholarship to play at Santa Clara.

“Everyone kept asking me, but I wanted to call all the other coaches first as a courtesy,” said Herlihy, who will enter her senior year with the Eagles as the reigning Tribune County Player of the Year. “So now I can focus on finishing my career here on the right note.”

At 6-foot-1, Herlihy has been a dominant inside presence on both ends of the floor for Arroyo Grande since she was called up to varsity as a freshman.

But with mid-major schools boasting guards at that size, she developed her outside shooting and dribbling. Santa Clara came to watch a practice in the fall and followed her throughout the season, offering Herlihy a scholarship during her official visit last month with the intention of her playing at either shooting guard or small forward.

“Talking with my coaches and family, we didn’t want me to play post in college because those girls are so much bigger than me,” Herlihy said. “The biggest things I’m trying to prove are my ball handling and perimeter defense, which is what I’ve been working on this offseason and I’m getting more and more confident.”

Herlihy chose the West Coast Conference school over her other finalists of Hawaii, Cal Poly, CSUN and Westmont. Hawaii wanted her to play both basketball and volleyball — of which she is also the reigning County Player of the Year alongside teammate Emily Sonny.

Westmont pitched the potential of NAIA national championships. UC Davis also held her interest early, but Herlihy decided if she was going to go to the Big West, it would be to play at Cal Poly, where both of her parents attended.

In the end, the Silicon Valley campus with second-year head coach JR Payne was the top sell. “Everyone says that cliche that you’ll know what the right fit is when you step on the campus, and I had never felt that at any of the other schools,” said Herlihy, who visited every school except Hawaii. “This was the first top program where I could see myself at.”

The Broncos were 10-18 overall and just 5-13 in WCC play under Payne, who led Southern Utah to its first ever Big Sky title and NCAA Tournament berth before heading west.

“She sold me more on what the team could be in the future than what it is now,” Herlihy said. “I feel like there’s a lot of opportunities there with the new coaching staff and playing in the competitive WCC with schools like Gonzaga and BYU.”

Arroyo Grande has two former players currently on Division I women’s basketball rosters in Cal Poly’s Heather Madrigal and Emma Weinreich, who plays at Southern Utah.

Herlihy said she talked to and trained with both throughout the process will also listening to advice from her parents, coach Bryan Hutchens and athletic director Dwight MacDonald.

“I would tell others just to be calm and be confident,” she said. “If you have the drive and the will, someone is going to find you.”