Elaine Nichols started playing volleyball at age 11 to be like her stepsister, and now the freshman has landed herself a starting spot on a collegiate volleyball team.
“I started playing because my stepsister played, and I really looked up to her and wanted to do everything she did,” said Nichols, a political communication major. “Once I started playing, I was addicted.”
After a successful high school career, Nichols is now starting as a setter for the 10-7 Lions and has handled the position well, according to her coach and teammates.
“As a freshman setter, she’s had an unbelievable amount of pressure on her,” said sophomore outside hitter Elizabeth Reid. “She’s truly risen to the occasion and started communicating with her hitters from day one.”
Before coming to Emerson, Nichols participated for USA Youth teams and went to camps at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, which hosts some of the top amateur talent in the country.
“[The Olympic camp was] very exclusive,” said Nichols. “You have to go to a USA Volleyball High Performance tryout which goes on all throughout the country, and then from that they make teams out of the top players.”
Nichols was put in the A2 Division of the camp, which was made up of the second half of the top 100 players in the country. She said this experience was a great resource for preparing her for collegiate volleyball.
Coming from the Salt Lake City, Utah, Nichols said she originally had no interest in going to the East Coast for school. But during her senior year, she said she received an email from Read, who had seen her play and was interested in having her on the team. Nichols traveled to Boston soon after to check out the school and the volleyball team.
“I decided to come check out the school, and I fell in love with the city and campus,” Nichols said. “Once I met the team, I knew I wanted to come here, because I really liked them.”
She said the transition from high school to college has gone well so far.
“It’s really an honor to be able to come in as a freshman and start,” Nichols said. “I owe a lot of that to my teammates for being so accepting and respectful even though I’m younger.”
Ryley Carman, Nichols’ stepsister who is three years older than her, said that she is very impressed with how Nichols has been playing at the collegiate level.
“I am extremely proud of how far she has come as a player, student and person,” said Carman in a phone interview. “To know that I had even the smallest part in that, I’m truly honored.”
Others close to Nichols said they have been proud of how she has handled her spot on the team. Reid said her consistency has been valuable to the team.
Head coach Ben Read added Nichols is doing a “fantastic” job on offense.
“Obviously we are asking her to make a few adjustments to help us out and make us more successful,” said Read, who coaches both men's and women's volleyball, “but I fully expected her to come in and start this season.”
Nichols said she has several goals for her collegiate career and for the team.
“Staying in the top five for assists is a personal goal I have for the season,” Nichols said. “As for the rest of my collegiate career, staying in the top for assists is a focus but I want to see how my first season goes to be able to make realistic goals for the future. For my team, our goals for this season are to make it to the NEWMAC playoffs and at least a 500 record.”
Outside of volleyball, Nichols said she hopes to go to law school, and eventually work with the Judge Attorney General Corps, the legal branch of the military. But for now, Nichols will follow her stepsister’s footsteps and continue with her volleyball career.