Colyer Personifying "Good8" For Ducks
For the past five years, Brooke Nuneviller has done just about anything the Oregon volleyball team needed.
Sometimes, it has felt like the Ducks needed her to do absolutely everything. This season, that hasn't been the case.
With as deep and well-rounded a roster as he's had in years, UO head coach Matt Ulmer has the Ducks off to an 8-2 start that included a sweep this past Sunday of then-No. 5 Stanford. Oregon will put that record to the test on Friday at 6 p.m., when Arizona State visits Matthew Knight Arena.
Nuneviller continues to set the pace for the Ducks, as she has for five years now. But she's surrounded by a deep supporting cast that was bolstered this offseason by the addition of setter Hannah Pukis, and also a talented freshman who is looking to follow in Nuneviller's do-everything footsteps.
Entering Friday's match against the Sun Devils, Nuneviller leads Oregon's attack with 4.18 kills per set. Right behind her at 3.44 kills per set is freshman Mimi Colyer, another lethal hitter with the versatility to contribute in nearly every aspect of the game.
"Mimi has the work ethic to do it, and I think she has a skill set that's really high level," Ulmer said. "… They're both really talented six-rotation players, and those are really hard to find."
Nuneviller began her career as Oregon's libero, on the 2018 Elite Eight team, and she's got the potential to compete one day for Team USA in that role. Colyer won't be expected to play the back row quite at that level, but she provides size and physicality on the attack that has earned four Pac-12 freshman of the week honors already this season. And she complements those skills with the work ethic and desire to have the sort of well-rounded impact Nuneviller does.
Just this past Sunday, in the sweep of Stanford, it was Colyer who led the Ducks in kills, with 15. She added 10 digs, for her third double-double already this season.
"We have a little quote on the wall in our team room – the word 'good' with an infinity symbol," Colyer said. "Like, just constantly, always be good. And I really took that to heart. I always want to be solid, to be good, no matter what's happening."
That unflappable, unfailing attitude from Colyer stems in part from her family. She's the daughter of two former star athletes at Long Beach State, her mother in volleyball and her father in water polo.
Predictably, family game nights were ultra-competitive. But Colyer added an important caveat, which helps explain her steady demeanor even in a high-pressure match like Sunday's win over Stanford.
"I've always been around competition – like, healthy competition," Colyer said. "Through growing up in sports, I've been able to see competition as a good thing, and to make sure I'm always in the right headspace to compete."
That can look different for different players. Nuneviller bubbles over with competitive fire when she's on the court. Colyer, not so much.
"It's funny – I'll try to get some answers out of her, like, 'How are you feeling? Nervous? Excited?' And she'll be like, 'yeah?' " Nuneviller said. "It's always the same with her, no matter what. And I think that's what makes her so good. I'm sure she has nerves, but she never shows it. She's so confident, and that's what makes her so special."
Along with developing an unflappable nature, Colyer became self-motivated while growing up in a family of athletes. She's no stranger to extra work outside of practice, just a few weeks into her college career.
When the Ducks played a high-profile weekend of nonconference matches earlier this month against Minnesota and Penn State, those teams targeted Colyer with their serves. Given the talent of players like Nuneviller, Georgia Murphy and Daley McClellan around her in the back row, it's understandable Colyer could be viewed as a potential weak link.
But she isn't about to let herself be considered a weak link, by any opponent, in any facet of the game.
"Mimi comes in before practice every day to get passing reps, because she know that's what our team is going to need – we're going to need her to receive the ball well," Ulmer said after the win over Stanford. "They put a ton of pressure on her, and she responded. There was only one slip-up she had, I think in the whole match; other than that she responded well – and they just kept coming after her.
"I love as a coach seeing someone who puts that type of effort into what they're doing, to their craft, and then they get rewarded."
Now that she's at Oregon, family game nights have been replaced for Colyer by games with her new family in the UO volleyball program. She enjoys trying to take down her head coach in board games, and talking some smack while doing so.
On the volleyball court, Colyer has been inclined to let Nuneviller set the emotional tone for the Ducks. But even in that regard, Oregon's budding freshman star is showing signs of growth.
"I think she's coming into her own, and that's happening with confidence," Ulmer said. "She's getting reps; she's feeling more comfortable on the floor. And so she's able to communicate more.
"She's a fighter, for sure, and a competitor. The more that comes out, the better we're going to be."