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Christmas Eve crash claims life of Mayville State volleyball player

Ashley Rae Haines, 23, died Christmas Eve near Hillsboro. Friends and family of the woman say she loved life and was determined to do her best. "When she got something in her mind, she made sure that she was going to accomplish what she wanted," said her older sister, Billie Soholt. Special to The Forum

MAYVILLE, N.D. - In the middle of a big Mayville State volleyball game, Ashley Haines hustled up to her coach with a hint of frustration in her voice.

"She comes over to me and she says, 'Coach, I don't feel like I'm contributing. I need to do more,' " said Lindsey Johnson, the head coach.

"I looked at her and said, 'Ashley, we're winning the game,' " said Johnson. "She got this big grin and said, 'Oh, OK.' "

To those who knew Haines, that moment had a little bit of everything: her drive to succeed; her passion for athletics; her dedication to her friends, family and teammates; and her goofy side that could find the joy in just about anything.

Haines died Christmas Eve after being thrown from her truck, which rolled at a curve north of Hillsboro while she was driving to visit her boyfriend. She was 23.

"For me, she's not only an amazing volleyball player and an amazing athlete and an amazing student, but an amazing person," Johnson said. "She's just one of the neatest kids I've ever coached."

Haines made a name for herself as an athlete well before her Mayville State years, starring on her high school basketball and volleyball teams, winning a state title in volleyball in 2007. She's the school's all-time leading scorer in basketball and earned all-state honors in both basketball and volleyball.

"She was gifted, but she continued to work hard at whatever she did," said Kyle Morehart, her high school basketball coach. "She believed in what she was doing in life."

Her love of being active went back even further. As a child, she spent her summers at Red Willow Lake Resort in Binford, out on the water with her older sister, Billie.

"We both water-skied from the time we were just tiny," said Billie, now Billie Soholt.

Haines was also an avid hunter. "She would go out with all the guys hunting, and she'd get the big buck," Soholt said.

That was typical for a young woman who made it a habit of reaching her goals. "She was very determined," Soholt said. "When she got something in her mind, she made sure that she was going to accomplish what she wanted."

In school, she was a dedicated student, earning a two-year degree in medical assisting at Bismarck State College before going on to Mayville State with an eye on physical therapy school eventually. Sometimes when she'd come to volleyball practice from the lab, her teammates would razz her about whether someone as social as she was wanted to spend her days hunched over a microscope.

A big heart and a big smile were Haines' calling cards. The night before she died, she was in Bismarck delivering food to families in need. Maggie Maroney, a friend and Mayville State volleyball teammate, said Haines saw the lighter side of life everywhere.

"She thought everything was funny. She was always laughing," Maroney said. "You could hear her laugh, and that was just Ashley."

Haines was "someone you always looked up to," Maroney said. "She loved her friends; she loved her family. She was just about living life and having fun," whether that meant attending a school basketball game, going to church together, or hanging out and playing Uno on a quiet night.

Emily Liljestrand, another friend and Mayville State teammate, said Haines was the consummate cheerleader.

"She believed in you even if you didn't believe in yourself," Liljestrand said. "She would just turn around and give you that grin, and you knew it would be OK."

Johnson, the coach, said those close to Haines are "just lost right now" in the wake of her death. But Liljestrand said they're also coming together in the spirit of their friend.

"We've all turned to each other and know that she'd want us to be strong and want us to be together," she said.

Visitation services were Thursday night at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Hillsboro. The funeral Mass is at 11 a.m. today, with an hour of visitation beforehand.