Being the new kid on the block can be intimidating. When you are the youngest in the group and being in a new and different setting, it can also increase one’s anxiety level.
Emily Nettles had no such feelings when she traveled to Columbia to work out with members of the Columbia College volleyball team. Rather than putting off the Lugoff-Elgin senior, the member of the Koalas squad made her feel welcome, if not one of their own.
When it came time for Nettles to select a school which would suit her volleyball, academic and social ambitions, all she had to do was think back on her day on the court at Columbia College. Shortly thereafter, Nettles was affixing her name to a National Letter of Intent with Keyaira Stevenson’s program.
“I went there, practiced with them and the coach reached out to me. I really enjoyed hanging out with the girls; practicing with them was very laid-back and cool,” she said of her day at the school. “The coach (Stevenson) is very easy to get along with. She was very good at making it like a friendship but still being a coach, at the same time.
“It was a lot of fun. I bonded with the girls. I just thought it was a good fit for me.”
Coming into a new situation is nothing new for Nettles, who was a hitter for Katie Ham’s Lady Demons but will be moved to setter by Stevenson. Nettles transferred to L-E from Camden before the start of her sophomore campaign. While she may have been a different name and face to some of her new teammates, Nettles’ talents were hardly a secret to Ham whose squad picked up another weapon.
“Emily is awesome,” Ham said of the second member of her 2018 squad to sign to play volleyball in college. “She transferred here a couple years ago, which was a great pickup for us. I’ve seen her play since she was younger. She always grabbed my attention because she was a lefty.
“She’s wonderful, sweet and dependable. She loves life and she loves people.”
Nettles’ enjoyment of being around people served her well when she was invited to practice with the Koalas. Admitting to being a bit apprehensive, that feeling quickly dissipated.
“To be honest,” Nettles said with a smile when thinking back to that day, “I thought I would be really nervous, but I wasn’t, for some reason. The girls there were just so welcoming and nice that they made me feel like I was already a part of the team.”
Joining a new squad brings a probable change in position. The one-time hitter will be part of a crowded field of three setters at Columbia. In spite of the incumbents already on the CC roster, Nettles said she was told by Stevenson that she would get her share of playing time.
Nettles, while excited about the opportunity which awaits her at the next level, admitted she has some work ahead of her to get used to playing a new spot on the court. In the same breath, though, she said being a southpaw has its advantages.
“Being a back row setter is a lot harder for me since I haven’t played back row that much. I’ve been more of a front row hitter. Now I have to work on back row passing,” he said. “Being a front row setter is easier because I’m left-handed so I can do a little more trick with hitting and things like that.”
Count Ham among those who think Nettles will make a smooth transition to playing a different role on the floor. While her former player may not have a wealth of setting experience under her belt, she has the intangibles which should make for the switch to go off without a hitch.
“I feel that Emily will be fine, honestly,” Ham said. “She has great hands and is intelligent when it comes to the setting position. I think the main thing will be that her defense will have to speed up; just the reaction time to playing the game in college.”
As is the case for all student-athletes going from the high school to the college game, the speed and pace of play will pick up exponentially at the next level. Fortunately, both Nettles and Ham said that the quick style which the Lady Demons employ benefits those who go on to play in college.
“It’s probably going to speed up a little more than what we do here. We try to keep it pretty quick here,” Nettles said. “It’s probably going to change a little more in college. I’m going to have to adjust and, hopefully, I get good at it.”
“I think (the faster L-E scheme) puts them a little ahead of the game, honestly,” Ham said. “I’ve talked to some college coaches before who have had players come in who have played the game at a slower pace and those athletes come in a little behind. With the quick tempo that we run, she will be a step ahead. That will be fun for Emily.”
Stevenson’s interest in recruiting Nettles gained steam late last fall. Things went to another level with the invitation to work out with the 2018 squad. As nerve-wracking as that experience could have been the welcoming nature of the Koala players allowed Nettles to settle down and, in a few months, settle in to her new digs in Columbia.
Signing day made it all official for Emily Nettles who said this was a longtime dream of hers. Now, she is ready to embark on a new journey.
“I started playing volleyball in the third grade,” Nettles said of how she got to this point in her life. “In the eighth-grade, I started cutting out all my other sports. I was thinking, ‘Which one do I want to play in college?’ Volleyball was the one that I wanted to keep going with. I stuck with volleyball and now, I’m here.”