Transfer assists in victory

Last year, as a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, Ashley Nevelle rarely received much playing time. This year, after a transfer to Oakland University, she’s playing a central role in a record-setting season for the Golden Grizzlies volleyball team.


Nevelle didn’t know at first where she was going to transfer to, but said she didn’t like the volleyball program at Cincinnati, specifically the coaches.


“I knew that I was going to leave Cincinnati pretty much a few months after I got there,” said Nevelle.


She left Cincinnati in December of 2008 at the semester break and took classes at Davenport University for a semester.


Head coach Rob Beam tried recruiting her out of high school, but she told him she “had [her] heart set on Cincinnati for some reason.”


“I’ve seen her play on a couple club teams,” Beam said. “I’ve always been impressed with her play.”


When he heard that Nevelle was looking to transfer, he contacted Cincinnati and got permission to contact her about it. She came and visited OU’s campus a few times, met the team and said she was impressed with how personal Beam was.


“I was looking for the friendlier, get-to-know-you coaches and Rob is definitely that,” said Nevelle.


With the 2009 season halfway over, Nevelle has 498 assists. She averages 9.22 assists per set, which gives her a good shot at breaking OU’s single-season record of 1,045, set by Becca Moller in 2005.


Beam said that much of her success has to do with the new offense OU is running.


“We ran a two-setter system [last year] and Ashley has allowed us to run a one-setter system,” Beam said.


With Nevelle as the primary setter, she’s naturally going to get more assists, but Beam stressed that her talent is still largely responsible.


“I think she’s been the best setter at all the events we’ve been at,” he said.


Nevelle has also been a strong defender with 125 digs, second best on the team.


“Ashley has a combination of skills and talents that is relatively unique and hard to find in setters,” said Beam. “She’s tall, she’s long-limbed, she’s a good athlete, a great jumper. She has a sort of intangible understanding of the game.”


Beam said good setters and hitters — such as senior Adrienne Leone, who has over 1,000 career kills — work off each other.


“She continues to make our hitters better which leads to a more efficient offense which leads to winning matches,” Beam said.


And win they have done. The Grizzlies already have 11 wins this season, after having just eight in each of the past two seasons.


After being picked to finish eighth in this year’s Summit League preseason poll, the Golden Grizzlies are currently 11-2 with a 5-1 Summit League record, trailing only North Dakota State (10-2, 6-0 Summit League) in the conference standings.


Teammate Brittany Dunn said that Nevelle has been a huge addition to the team this year.


“She’s done a great job of coming in and just performing and doing her job,” Dunn said.


Dunn, a redshirt junior, is one of the veteran players Nevelle said she looks up to, calling her a “special leader.”


“She’s so loud and in control, I just love playing with her,” Nevelle said.


Nevelle went to Caledonia High School where she was a four-year all-conference honoree and a two-time all-region selection. As a senior, she was chosen to the all-state team and was part of the 2006 USA Junior Olympic Invitational Championship team.


While still a junior in high school, Nevelle committed to play at Cincinnati. She said she was looking for a big school and loved the campus, but she soon regretted this decision.


She enrolled at OU this fall with hopes of becoming a pharmacist and was happy to move back to her home state of Michigan.


“I love being closer to home,” Nevelle said. “My family comes to all my games.”


Nevelle started playing volleyball when she was in sixth grade and grew up with experienced volleyball players in the family. Her mother played at Western Michigan and her aunt played at the University of Minnesota.


“They all kind of started me off early,” said Nevelle.


Beam said he’s confident that once Nevelle learns more about the team and develops relationships with her teammates, she’ll eventually fit into a leadership role.


“I think she’s going to assume that leadership responsibility as one of the best players in our conference,” said Beam.


But for now, she’s just a sophomore on a team that appears to have its best ever shot at winning the conference title since joining Division I.


– Photo by Bob Knoska/The Oakland Post