Nicholson dominates defense

The co-captain of the volleyball team usually stands out from her teammates during games and it’s not because of her exceptional performances.

It’s her appearance.

On Sept. 29 against South Carolina State, Anisha Nicholson sported a white jersey, while all of her teammates wore orange.

Then on Oct. 1 against Bethune-Cookman College, Nicholson switched to green , while her teammates switched to white.

Nicholson, a 20-year-old senior from Long Beach, Calif., has been wearing a different color jersey all season long as the team’s “libero” – their defensive specialist.

As the libero playing on the back row, Nicholson cannot set, spike, serve, or even jump. However, she can substitute for anyone or stay in the game the whole time.

Head coach Tony Trifonov said that he switched Nicholson from her comfortable position at outside hitter to libero because she was simply the best player on the team for that particular position.

“We felt that we needed (Nicholson) on the court during all six rotations to give us a boost with our ball control, ball handling and defense,” Trifonov said. “I think she is our best defensive player and one of our best passers.”

Nicholson has helped the Rattlerettes to an overall record of 8-3, with an undefeated conference record of 5-0. In 39 games this season, Nicholson has recorded 103 digs, which is third on the team.

“Her passing, her hitting, everything, has made us the team that we are,” said Delisha Peterson, a junior setter from Hoover, Ala. “She is a good all-around player and person on the court.”

Communication problems have made playing difficult at times for Nicholson. Earlier in the season before several key players were injured, she was the only American in the starting lineup (along with

Nicholson there were five Peruvians and one Bulgarian).

“It was hard to communicate,” Nicholson said. “They mostly spoke Spanish on the court, so it kind of left me out, but now they are trying to speak more English.”

She described this situation as a big cultural hurdle that they must jump over in order to win another championship.

The Rattlerettes won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Championship in 1999 and 2001.

As a freshman in 1999, Nicholson led the volleyball team to that MEAC Championship, which gave the team their first ever NCAA tournament berth.

That year, she received first team All-MEAC honors and was named the Most Valuable Player of the MEAC Championship tournament.

Nicholson had been excelling similarly in volleyball even before she arrived on the hills of Tallahassee to play for FAMU.

While she was a senior in high school, her Asics Nova club team won the USA Volleyball Junior National Championships. Nicholson was then named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

There aren’t any historically black colleges in California, so Nicholson said she then came to this side of the country not for volleyball, but to soak in the black college experience, while receiving an education.

“(Volleyball) was just my ticket into college,” said Nicholson, who has sustained a 3.0 gpa while majoring in early childhood education.

Nicholson loves working with kids, so whenever she isn’t on the volleyball court she can probably be found teaching a child at one of the neighborhood daycares.

“Anisha loves kids and she says it everyday,” said senior Shavonne Newsome, who has been Nicholson’s teammate for four seasons. “She has a life outside of volleyball.”

When her season ends later this year, so will her volleyball career, as she is not looking to play professionally. After college, Nicholson wants to attend graduate school, and then someday open up her own daycare.

These days, Nicholson enjoys working and playing with kids more than working and playing on the volleyball court.

“I do (still) like volleyball, but volleyball was only my ticket to start my career,” Nicholson. “Once I get that career going that’s it for me.”