HOUGHTON - Noelle Eveland has known she wanted to be a Michigan Tech Husky for a long time. And that's not the only thing she knows.
Eveland, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter from Valparaiso, Indiana, committed verbally to play for coach Matt Jennings' volleyball Huskies two summers ago; before Jennings had ever coached Tech in a match and before her junior year of high school.
"I think first it was I really liked the coaches. Immediately, talking to them on the phone, I thought they seemed really relatable, nice, not too serious, but they were also focused," Eveland said.
Noelle Eveland, an outside hitter from Valparaiso, Indiana, committed to play volleyball for Michigan Tech two summers ago and will be joining the Huskies this fall. (Courtesy photo)
She came for an official visit and made her decision before getting back into the car.
"Me and my mom were just sitting there and I told her I had this feeling it felt right. I just had this intuitive feeling that it was a good fit, something was telling me I should be here," she said.
Making her decision a full two years before enrolling, there were times where she admitted needing reassurance that she didn't jump in too early, but in the end was satisfied and is ready to come to Houghton.
What the Tech program will get is a confidence and maturity that impressed Jennings even back then on that visit when she was not yet a high school junior.
"She's got an incredible personality and confidence about her that is I think, missing until a certain point with most people her age and a little older," Jennings said.
As is the origin story with many Tech athletes, an interest in engineering (also her father's profession) had much to do with how a recruit from Valparaiso makes the eight-hour trip up the Lake Michigan coastline to the U.P.
Eveland's academic credentials reflect well on her ability to succeed both on and off the court at Tech: she was named a 2014 National Merit Scholar Semi-Finalist and a 2013 AP Scholar by College Board.
"It's always just been about taking the time to sort of compartmentalize: This is my school time, this is my volleyball time," she said.
That commitment has included multiple courses at nearby Valparaiso University.
That all-around mentality carried over to the court, where Eveland has developed a rotation as a 'six-rotation' player who can hit hard but does not have to be subbed when she moves to the back row.
As a youth player, she was an middle blocker for several years before converting to the outside around age 16.
"Switching to outside, it was about learning to love passing, defense, and serve receive as much as I love hitting," she said. "Becoming an outside made me work on my mental game more."
Because NCAA teams can use 15 subs per set, the collegiate game has become highly specialized and a player like Eveland has become relatively rare.
"We've taken the game here in the States and specialized it to the point where it has limited the overall dynamic player," Jennings said.
Speaking of dynamic, the chance to help push a program upward was an appeal to Eveland.
"I really wanted to be a part of something that wasn't just sitting at a great level, that I could be a part of building it up," she said.
"I can see that these girls are here, they want to work, and I think what I can bring is extra push."