Undeniable: Brooke Nuneviller's pursuit to be an elite outside hitter

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2023 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media
Savanna Collins
Oct 30, 2023

“You’re undersized. You don’t have enough power. You won’t be successful as an outside hitter.”

Brooke Nuneviller has heard those criticisms through her entire career. To this day, she ignores them.

She ignored them when she committed to Oregon because they recruited her as a hitter, denying the schools that offered her a libero spot. She ignored them when she earned a starting spot her sophomore year and went on to be a three-time All-American.

When I hear things like that, I just work my ass off,” Nuneviller said. “I’ll do whatever it takes to compete at the highest level, especially as an outside.”

Still competing in her rookie year, it’s safe to say Nuneviller has been checking that box as a pro. She’s seventh overall on the Athletes Unlimited Volleyball leaderboard and second in stat points – one of the best at the position this season. She also played for Nilufer Belediyespor in Turkey as an outside hitter earlier in the year.

She’s not done proving everyone wrong yet though. Nuneviller has been working on the physicality of her game and vertical so she can continue to compete (and beat out) outsides who have the upper hand when it comes to height.

“I’m trying to take a lot of pride in the fact that I know what type of player I am: I’m a really smart ball-control player. But I’m also trying to work on that physicality and trying to inch closer to the girls that are putting away 20 kills a match and seeing what I can do in order to get there. You see 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3 outsides that jump out of the gym and I’ve worked on my vertical, but I’m definitely under size still.”

Wisdom from a Champion

Watch any AU Volleyball match in the last three years and you’ll immediately notice 2022 champion Betty de la Cruz do just that. She waits on the high, arched sets she prefers and explodes with power.

Nuneviller has played opposite De La Cruz in Week Two and Week Four this season and is soaking in what she can learn from the seasoned professional. That is after she got over some of her nerves.

“I am not going to lie, I was nervous to play with her because she’s this vet. She’s an Olympian. She is someone I’ve played against in the past – just intimidating. I didn’t necessarily know how it would be on the court and I would say immediately that she demands a lot out of her teammates, but she also demands an equal amount out of herself. Those are the players that I respect the most because I would say I feel pretty similar in that way.”

Nuneviller said playing alongside De La Cruz, she’ll be the first to tell you if you can do something better but also the one in your ear helping to make adjustments to succeed. 

“We’ll be in hitting lines and we won’t have a block in front of me. I’ll bounce a couple balls and she’s like, ‘That’s going to get blocked.’ And I’m like, ‘You’re absolutely right. It’s going to get blocked.’ And I’ll play with her and I’ll be watching her hit … She’s swinging high; she’s hitting corners; she’s being smart; she’s tipping; and she’s just a very smart, experienced volleyball player.”

Working and learning alongside De La Cruz came at the perfect time for Nuneviller as she continued to find her footing in the league that De La Cruz had dominated for two years.

“I think it was really helpful for me to have her as a teammate in Week Two because I was probably getting away with too much in Week One or trying to go for the glory swing, or just not be as smart of a player as I have been in the past,” Nuneviller explained. “She reminded me and she continues to hold me accountable just to take the smart swings and be an all-around great volleyball player.”


That early guidance has continued to pay off. She’s fourth this season in kills and on 304 attack attempts has only made 22 hitting errors – the fewest of any hitter in the league with 250 attempts or more. Her efficiency is valuable to her team’s offense but also a part of her approach to the game. 

“I think not making mistakes helps me get into a rhythm and I’ve always known that about myself. So I think it takes me a few swings at the beginning of a match to really feel like I can take a big rip at a ball instead of just kind of chop it … But in this league, it definitely helps when you’re getting minus 12 for a hitting error.”

In Transition

Libero might have been how Nuneviller started her college career but it wasn’t what she became an All-American for. She earned a starting spot on the roster in a libero jersey her freshman year and racked up 580 total digs, the third-most in Oregon single-season history. That summer, she was also a libero for the USA Volleyball Women’s Junior National Team at the 2019 FIVB U20 World Championships.

But her sophomore year is when she made the transition to outside hitter and started to come into her own as a hitter. Nuneviller is the first in Oregon history to earn the honor of All-American three times. She recorded a career-best 3.98 kills per set coupled with a career-high .281 hitting percentage.

Recently, Nuneviller competed with the U.S. Women’s National Team at the Volleyball Nations League Tournament in Brazil as a libero/outside. Adjusting back to libero in the gym with USA typically takes her a month to get accustomed to again. Surrounded by the best players in the country, Nuneviller felt how it challenged her and pushed her to grow defensively.

When she reflects on the path and length of her career, and the passion that continues to bloom, she thanks pursuing being a hitter.

“I’ve been playing now for 16 years, which is absolutely crazy. And I think just working hard and being the best outside hitter I can be at every level has kept my love for the sport.”

Simply put, Nuneviller would not be denied the position on the court she loves to play.

“Every time I hear ‘you can’t do it,’ I work a little harder.”



Savanna Collins is the Digital Media Reporter at Athletes Unlimited. You can follow her on Twitter @savannaecollins.

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