Eugene, Ore. -- You know the returning stars for Oregon volleyball. Ronika Stone, Willow Johnson, Brooke Nuneviller. The three are leading the charge for the Ducks to return to the NCAA Elite 8 and maybe push even further.
"I think this team is very scrappy and they work hard," says Ronika Stone, returning for her senior year. "It's hard to get a ball to drop. I still think they're trying to learn how to block my slide. Not gonna lie."
They make it look easy. Not just agains the newcomers they practice but to, well, just about everyone else in the country. At home, we know spikes and digs, serves and sets are anything but simple. On the highest of Division I levels, the degree of difficulty gets even higher. So KEZI went to find out just how hard it is.
So we started with the basics, and Brooke Nuneviller, who finished her freshman campaign in 2018 with 580 digs, third most in school history. Who better to explain the right place to be...
"In this position you're ready to go up if the ball comes high or ready to jab down if it's low," Nuneviller explains, gesturing to where her arms and hands should be. "Just a neutral position, it takes the same amount of time anywhere the balls so that's why my hands are here. You have to get low because the ball is coming so fast so quick reaction time."
Nuneviller then digs one of Stone's spikes, and continues to explain what she looks for when an outside hitter winds up.
"...And her arms, the way her shoulders face and the snap."
Then add in Ronika Stone...
"I'm a smaller middle for my position, I know that's hard to believe," Stone says with a laugh. "But I try to beat a lot of people with speed and I think I can get up faster than they can and once if I'm even a bit faster than they can I win."
Then you factor in the speed.
Coach Ron Beick was a math teacher before working with the Ducks, and actually broke down the math for real. Stone's fastest spike that day clocked in at 58 miles an hour, with a distance of about 10 feet to cover. The equation came out to a reaction time of .12 seconds from the time it hits her hand to the time it reaches the player digging the ball.
The result when you put a hapless Sports Director in front. Well, watch the video to get the full experience.
Sure, it's fun to watch Sprots Director Andrew Haubner get pelted, but Stone uses her athleticism and power to terrorize opponents all over the country.
"We talked about shorters and seeing where the hitters facing," Stone begins. "I think it's really important for middles to have a lot of range in their arms so if my blocker is biting going this way, I have to know that I have a cross body shot and a wrist away and so I think I've developed those shots over the years and so I think it's harder for blocks to pick me up because I look like I'm going cross and go wrist away."
So yeah, the ladies make the nigh impossible look routine. Reasons why they're one of the best volleyball teams in the nation, and why they have no intention of letting up now.