During any given Cody volleyball match, you can bet senior Ashly Nieters will be diving on the floor to try and save the ball.
And the libero has the bruises to prove it.
“My adrenaline is so high when I do hit the floor I don’t think about whether it hurts,” she said. “It’s fun to get a hard hit ball up and see the energy it brings to the team. It’s usually the start of a good play.”
Defense is key for the Filly volleyball team this season, making the libero crucial to Cody’s strategy. As the team’s defensive specialist, the libero is responsible for chasing down and covering the barrage of attacks by opponents, all the while passing the ball with precision and control. The different colored uniform liberos wear is to make sure they stay in the backcourt because they are not allowed to attack, as well as for substitution purposes.
“Ashly is a competitor,” Filly varsity coach Virginia Gee said. “She is always pushing herself to improve and get better. We are so fortunate to have her on our team. I wouldn’t trade her for any other libero in the state.”
Against Powell earlier this season, the Fillies were trailing when Nieters dove for a ball and a teammate stepped on her ankle. She was forced out of the game but went back in a few plays later.
“It hurt to put pressure on it, but I went in because I had to be out there to help my team,” she said. “I played through it.”
Knowing she wasn’t 100 percent, Powell served at Nieters and earned an ace.
“I was so mad,” she said. “The next time I wanted to make a perfect pass to tell them, ‘I’m ready to play.’”
Nieters made the pass and helped turn around the game for the Fillies.
“Ashly feels she can play every ball on the court,” Gee said. “Hesitation is a killer in this game and Ashly rarely hesitates. She just goes.
“She also has an uncanny knack to know where the ball is going. She is able to read a hitter’s arm swing and approach and place herself in a good position to make a play.”
Nieters says shoulder angle, as well as the position of a hitter’s thumbs, helps her determine
where the ball is likely to be hit.
“It’s usually coming hard and you don’t want to swing your arms,” she said. “You just put your hands out and stay still.”
She had displayed her defensive intuition time and time again, keeping the Fillies in plays that should have ended in a dead ball.
“She has natural quickness that allows her to get to many balls that would be unplayable by others,” freshman coach Keith Francik said. “And she can stylize her play to fit the situation. When I coached her on last season’s varsity squad, I was comfortable giving her wide latitude to make defensive adjustments as she saw fit.”
Nieters had a brief foray in the front row in seventh grade, but it was evident early on she was meant to be a back row player. As a freshman she was selected by Francik to be the libero.
“There was some healthy competition for the job,” Francik said. “But Ashly had a knack for being a full-time back row defensive player and won the position.”
Nieters credits Francik for her early success.
“He helped me learn the ropes,” she said. “I owe him for everything I know now.
“There are only a couple of girls that are on the court the whole game. You can see what’s going on, and what’s working and what’s not.”
She played JV libero as a sophomore and was the varsity libero last season, earning All-Conference honors.
“The libero position can be difficult to statistically evaluate, but I think it is safe to say that her play typically results in points being scored by the Fillies,” Francik said.
Nieters relishes her role and says one of the the best parts about playing the position is when she’s able to make a difficult defensive play.
“With a really hard ball, I try to at least get a hand on it and make a play for the team,” she said.
She adds that this year’s team has created a family atmosphere and is out on the floor working for each other.
“It’s not about stats, it’s about how we can help each other,” she said. “Scout [Vannoy] and Ashley [Wilson] are always on my left side, and Emily [Hinze], Ashlyn [Bower] or Gabbi [Barrus] are on my right. I trust them to get the ball up if it goes in their area.”