When someone uses relentless to describe an athlete, it’s probably a good thing that person is on the same team.
And that’s how Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.) High School girls coach Ben Maxfield described junior outside hitter/libero Brooke Nuneviller, one of 25 individuals named to the 2017 VolleyballMag.com/Triple Crown Sports 25 Underclassmen to Watch list.
The 25 Underclassmen to Watch list, like the Fab 50 list, is voted on by a panel of NCAA Division I women’s coaches.
“Not only has Brooke been blessed with a tremendous athletic ability, she is an extremely hard worker in anything she does,” said Maxfield, whose Corona del Sol team with Nuneviller on the roster won the Class 6A Arizona state title this past fall. “The word that always comes to mind when I think of her is relentless. She will never give up and will never stop working to get better. She plays a lot of volleyball in the gym and in the sand whenever and wherever she can.”
Her Aspire 17 Rox club coach Ryan Tolman also uses the “R” word in describing Nuneviller.
“Obviously she is a gifted athlete, but the quality that makes her special is her relentless approach to every game, match and play,” he said. “She never quits. She is easily the most competitive athlete I have ever coached.”
But for the 5-foot-11 Nuneviller, it’s all about the team aspect and experiencing the highs of success on the court.
“I love how volleyball is a team sport where we all can celebrate,” she said. “It’s a sport where one player feels the same thing as her teammates. I love competing with my teammates and having the same feelings as them. I love how volleyball can bring your team to being a family, which is probably true in any sport. I just love competing in the sport I love playing.”
Maxfield added, “On top of it all, she is kind and works to make her teammates better. She has the ability to make any player feel like they are the best in the world. She’s very coachable and she brings that same work ethic into the classroom, working and wanting to excel in everything she does.”
But success on the court hasn’t exactly come easy for Nuneviller.
“I’ve gotten taller and stronger and I can jump a little higher now,” she said. “I grew a lot later than most girls. I’ve probably grown six inches since freshman year. Being smaller probably pushed me ahead in certain other aspects of the game, but I’ve improved physically over the last few years.”
Tolman sums up Nuneviller best by describing a set in a match the team played earlier this season.
“We came out flat, struggled to get out of a couple rotations and found ourselves trailing 14-4,” he recalled. “Everyone on the court and sidelines, including me, was ready to get to the next set. We had mailed it in. But not Brooke. She continued to encourage her teammate, fought for every point and never gave in. Regardless of the situation, she gives it all she has and leads by example.”
Nuneviller plays libero in the USA Volleyball pipeline and is an outside hitter at Corona del Sol and for her Aspire club team, where she’s constantly squaring off against taller competitors.
“To compete against girls who are 6-2, I had to get stronger,” said Nuneviller, who has a 9-10 approach jump. “I have a decent vertical jump, but it’s not amazing. I definitely have to be smarter. I know I can’t be as physical sometimes, but being smart on the court has helped me improve. You have to be smart in order to play the position. Outside hitter is one of my favorite positions. It challenges me to be a better player. You have so much to learn at that position and there is so much you can get better at to get to the level of elite players.”
Nuneviller was part of the U.S. girls’ youth national team this past summer that played in Puerto Rico and took second at the NORCECA U18 championships.
“One of my favorite things is playing in the High Performance program (with USA Volleyball),” she said. “You are playing with the top players from around the nation and they all come together to form a team. It humbles you. All the girls around me were amazing, which means I have to increase my level of play. The girls we played against on the Dominican Republic team had played in dozens of tournaments and that was our first time playing together. It was definitely challenging but was such an amazing experience.”
Nuneviller, whose mom, Beth, played at Arkansas State and is an assistant coach on the Aspire 17 Rox team, also enjoys playing sand/beach volleyball.
“I train in beach sometimes,” she said. “The last couple years our high school has had a beach team, but I’ve been playing in tournaments since I was 9 and have played in some in California.”
As far as her future, Nuneviller is the only player on the 25 Underclassmen to Watch list who has not made a college commitment.
“I have not made a decision,” she confirmed. “I have my list narrowed and should know where I’m going by May. I’m so excited about that. I love watching the NCAA tournament. It makes me motivated to get better. The girls I see are at such a high level and look like they are having a lot of fun.”