Ivy Looking to Climb Beach Volleyball Ladder

June 30, 2009, 5:50 p.m. (ET)

STAVANGER, Norway – After a summer of buildup and a week of so much excitement, the first round of the SWATCH FIVB Beach Volleyball World Championships was nearly over, and all Ashley Ivy really felt was nervous.

Even after she and teammate Lauren Fendrick beat a Norwegian team on Tuesday afternoon, their chances of advancing to the single-elimination round seemed extremely slim. 

"They won't know until (Wednesday) night," she said. "It's a waiting game now; and waiting is misery.

“I computered what would get us out of pool play and it was a 1.0 point percentage. We had to beat Norway by more than 21 points, and we only beat them by 7, so we're only plus-14 now.

"Now we have a 66 percent chance of getting out of pool."

If it sounds like Ivy should be working on a PhD at Stanford instead of playing beach volleyball, well, that's exactly what she was doing several years ago. Her field: paleo-oceanography.

Though Ivy is hardly the most talented player at the world championships, she probably leads the pack in higher math and analytical thinking, which are talents that she hopes will eventually carry her to the top of the sport.

After every match, Ivy returns to her hotel room, opens a notebook and lets the analytical juices flow.

"It's the first thing I do, even before I shower. I do it after every match because I keep a book on every team we play. It's just the way I am," she said. " I have a master's in chemistry, so I'm very by the numbers. I'm the kind who can look at data and analyze it and extrapolate an answer and it usually helps in the long run, instead of just playing a guessing game out there."

No one has ever doubted Ivy's determination – in school, sports and getting a leg up on her competition.

The night before a high school basketball game in Arlington, Texas, Ivy was in Las Vegas at a volleyball tournament. After returning home at 3 a.m., she slept a few hours and ended up scoring 13 points and leading her team to another win.

Just a typical weekend for Ivy, who accepted a scholarship to Stanford but then considered handing it back when her mother came down with a rare autoimmune disease that left her with weakened her legs and lungs.

But Ivy arrived in Palo Alto on schedule, and as a freshman filled in for four-time All-American Kerri Walsh as a right-side hitter.

"Kerri probably hadn't been taken out in her four years. But instead of saying, 'Why are you doing this?' she said, 'Go for it Ashley.' She totally embraced it."

Ivy played in three NCAA Finals, capturing the title in 2001 and making the NCAA All-Tournament Team. Then it was on to grad school – and a PhD. But after picking up a master's, she moved to Austin, Texas, to coach volleyball. On a lark almost, she started playing beach volleyball.

"There was a little club called Aussie's, and I played it there and I was hooked," said Ivy, who decided to move to California

"I thought my family would say, 'Great, you just went to graduate school, you have a full-time job'… I mean I was living a great life. But my sister said: ‘You have to do this. I'll help you sell your furniture, pack up your car and move. Just do it."

In 2005 Ivy was nominated for AVP Rookie of the Year. Last summer, she took off for Europe and Asia, winning two FIVB Satellite and Challenger Tour events.

Now she finds herself in Stavanger, hoping against long-shot odds that she calculated on her computer, to play another day.

"I think I'm a really good athlete, but in beach volleyball I feel like a baby," she said. "I'm trying to play catch-up. I learn so much every day; give me two or three years and I feel like I'll be there."