Skip to main content

Hope Blossoming On Beach For Ducks

Apr 26, 2022

When she was in middle school, Reagan Hope looked up to a fellow up-and-coming volleyball star from the state of Arizona, Brooke Nuneviller.

Now, the two are paired together on Oregon's beach volleyball team, which opens play in the Pac-12 Tournament on Wednesday. Hope and Nuneviller are looking to parlay their chemistry together into an extended stay for the Ducks this week in Tucson, Ariz. – and also into success for Oregon's indoor volleyball team come fall.

A 6-foot-2 middle blocker indoors, Hope planned all along to double as a beach player for the Ducks. When an injury kept her off the court last fall, this spring's beach season gained even more importance, as Hope returned to competition and got her first taste of collegiate volleyball.

She's getting it while playing with her former idol, who also happens to be one of the elite players in UO volleyball history.

"I think having Brooke as a partner is a huge deal," Hope said. "She pushes me every single day. And I think it shows."

Hope and Nuneviller have a 15-10 record together, all while playing in the No. 1 spot. Those 15 wins lead the team, though not by much – Ally Haden and Savannah Siegrist have won 14 times together. The team's Alex Laita-Bea Wetton and Ashley Schroeder-Ella Tyus duos have 13 wins each.

Hope and Nuneviller have held their own against some of the top teams in the country. Beach matches are best-of-three, with two sets played to 21 and the third to 15; against the top tandem from No. 3 UCLA on April 10, Hope and Nuneviller forced a third set, and later in the day they extended the first set to 24-22 in a loss to the top tandem from No. 1 USC.

"They're two indoor kids with some beach experience, so it's not like they don't know what they're doing, but the teams they're coming up against are specialized – they've been playing beach, and only beach, for a number of years now," UO coach Jason Dillard said. "So the fact they're able to go out there and perform and compete against those teams, and find a great deal of success, is very impressive."

In Nuneviller's case, it no surprise. She's an immensely versatile player, elite on an international level as a libero but one of the most explosive hitters in the Pac-12 as well. With only two players on the sand in beach, both must be capable of doing a little of everything, and Nuneviller is a prototype.

Hope, though, grew up specializing as a middle blocker indoors, focused on skills suited for the front row. She only began playing beach during the COVID pandemic, and while she quickly took to it, skills like back-row defense, setting and serving have been polished on the fly this spring.

On any given point in beach, Hope gets pushed out of her comfort zone. If Nuneviller digs an opposing attack – and she does that a lot – it's up to Hope to set Nuneviller up for a kill. And if a serve or attack comes to Hope, she has to keep it off the sand and make a pass to Nuneviller.

"At the Pac-12 South in particular (March 26-27), the kid was getting every ball peppered right at her," Dillard said. "And because of that, she's grown in that role. And that's great for us."

A typical day for Hope includes weights in the morning followed by practice indoors, and then in the afternoon competition with the beach team. It's not unusual for her to work on a skill one afternoon on the beach, and see it translate the next morning on the indoor court.

"She was playing outside hitter at our practice the other day," Nuneviller said, "and her passing was so good – because she's out here on the beach, working on it every single day."

Hope's days this spring are busy, competing for two teams. But after being deprived of volleyball last fall due to injury, she is relishing all of it.

"Fall was really a struggle for me; I've never not competed," she said. "I had played in the summer expecting to come in and at least compete for a spot with this team. And then not even to be able to compete? I'm just a competitive person, and seeing my team out there, I wanted to be part of it."

Few players embody competitive fire the way Nuneviller does. But in Hope, she's seeing a kindred spirit. Their beach coach, Dillard, is looking forward to seeing how much that fire can fuel the Ducks this week in the Pac-12 Championship. The Ducks face Utah in Wednesday's opening around at 9 a.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

"When you're in a partnership you adopt a lot of the traits of the person you're playing with," Dillard said. "Reagan can definitely attest to that – there's a higher level of competition that you reach with Brooke. She's demanding in that regard. And the will to win is alive in both of them."

A year ago at the Pac-12 Championship, Oregon won its opening match before losing twice in the double-elimination format. The goal this week, Dillard said, is to stick around a little longer – sparked by the No. 1 tandem of Hope and Nuneviller.