March 20, 2009

Shades of Gray: Canisius Star Rewrites Records

by Ken McMillan | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Ashley Gray, one of five sisters to play college lacrosse, is on the verge of becoming the Golden Griffins' all-time leading scorer. Canisius plays Friday at No. 7 Duke.
© Canisius

The lacrosse season for Canisius College was barely 15 minutes old and standout Ashley Gray was feeling puzzled.

She had just scored her second goal against Denver and was receiving the customary congratulations from her teammates when she heard coach Scott Teeter ask the official, "Can I have that ball?"

"Why does he want that ball?" Gray thought to herself.

It wasn't until after the game she found out it was her 100th career goal for the Golden Griffins.

"It's a very big accomplishment for me,'' Gray said. "It's something that I never thought I would do."

It turns out Gray is as humble off the field as she is determined on it. She posted 112 goals and 204 points in her high school career, earning All-Central New York honors. Earning a college athletic scholarship to Canisius was "like a dream come true,'' she said.

Since her arrival on the Buffalo campus, Gray has been a focal point of the Canisius offense. She had 31 goals and 19 assists as a freshman, 32 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore and 35 goals and 12 assists as a junior.

With 22 goals and seven assists this season, Gray is rewriting the Canisius record books. She just passed 2008 graduate Whitney Card for second on the career points list (168) and is 18 goals away from breaking Card's career goals mark of 137. Gray needs 33 more points to pass 2008 grad Lauren Walsh for the career points record. Canisius has eight games remaining, starting Friday at No. 7 Duke, plus playoffs.

"I love scoring goals and being the go-to player," she said. "It's my passion."

Teeter believes Gray should be considered for Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors, and says it is a given that she should earn her fourth all-league selection, the only active player to do so. Gray didn't even realize the historical nature until it was brought up to her.

"It's pretty unbelievable," she said. "I would be very proud of myself, but I couldn't do it without any of my teammates."

The willingness to run every play like it's the most important of the match is what makes Gray special, Teeter says.

"She is a true competitor,'' he said. "She competes hard every day. She puts her body on the line. She drives the ball hard. Her arm is full of black and blue marks. She takes the punishment."

"If you don't play all out, there's no way you are going to win," Gray said. "I don't play with 'ifs' as a factor. I don't want to say, 'Well, if I had done this, the outcome might have been different.' I'd rather say I worked very hard."

A midfielder, Gray was utilized more on the defensive end as a freshman but used primarily as an offensive playmaker the past two seasons. This season, Teeter has expanded her role to include defense once again. "We depend on her for other things: making a stop, running transition," he said.

Gray said it was tough to learn the Griffins' defensive systems as a freshman, but that only strengthened her resolve.

"It was such a hard thing for me to do that I set my mind to it, and it was almost, like, fun to try and be better than other people,'' she said. "When I had a defensive assignment, I was trying to prove to myself that I could do it. We had an assistant coach my freshman year, and he said 'Defense is an attitude.' Those words have stuck with me my whole career."

Gray's family has a rich college lacrosse pedigree. Sara Gray played at Massachusetts. Elizabeth played at Cortland. Twin sister McKenzie Gray plays at Le Moyne. Younger sister Taylor is a sophomore on the Canisius squad (she has been injured all season). Their brother, Josh, played high school lacrosse.

"We watched [my older siblings] play every game and they loved it every day," Ashley said. "We admired them so much and their drive to be successful in that sport."

For parents Skip and Joni Gray, life was all about piling the kids in the car for the next lacrosse event.

"We went from practice to practice and everyone had their own games," Ashley said. "Around the dinner table, it was always everyone talking about their successes and games and what went on at practice. Everyone was in their practice jerseys."

To this day, Skip Gray rarely misses one of his daughter's home games -- that was one of the prime reasons why Ashley chose Canisius, since the campus is less than two hours from the Syracuse suburbs.

"My parents can still come to every game," Gray said. "That was very important. I hate when they're not there."

When the season finally comes to an end, and with it her collegiate career, Gray is going to look back fondly on what she has accomplished. It's got her thinking about becoming a lacrosse coach following graduation.

"If you work hard, you can achieve your goals," Gray said.

One hundred and twenty goals, and counting, to be precise. Following the team banquet, she'll have one milestone ball from Denver to prove it. 

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