8 years ago
Ola Ajayi
Staff Writer
Eric Prince
Photographer

Comets setter and team member of the 2008 American Southwest Conference (ASC) championship winning team, Niki Calverley, is a part of the Wylie dynasty of volleyball players who played for the same high school volleyball team.
One can’t be too surprised Calverley chose volleyball above other sports she played as a kid. Growing up in Wylie, Texas, Calverley, her older sister and mom played for the Wylie High School volleyball team, albeit different periods, while they attended the school.
“I started with ballet, played gymnastics, softball, basketball, ran track and was cheerleader for three years,” Calverley said.
Calverley knew she would settle for volleyball even when her dad thought she was better at other sports.
“He was kind of mad when I quit basketball my sophomore year in high school and was supposed to be on the varsity team,” Calverley said. “But, he forgave me and still comes to every game.”
Calverley met the current coaching crew of Marci Sanders and Zach Villarreal while playing as an amateur at Club Kahuna, a North Texas region volleyball club.
Head volleyball coach Marci Sanders said the coaches did not set out specifically to recruit Calverley, because they weren’t sure she would develop as well as she did while they were actively coaching her at Club Kahuna.
UTD was a first choice for Calverly though; she said she didn’t think twice about the offer after the coaches asked her to join the team.
Transitioning from high school volleyball into the Comets team ,was not necessarily an easy step for Calverley. She faced an early struggle going into the Comet lineup as a freshman setter.
“Setters are the quarterback of the volleyball team. It took me a little while to step up to the plate, to get used to all that responsibility, Calverley said.
The initial struggles seem a long time ago though. Calverley set a new assist record in Comet history and finished last season second in the country in the assists per game.
“I think the awards have made me more confident,” Calverley said. “It puts me at ease to know that I can be at that level, so I’m just striving to do even better than that.”
Assitant volleyball coach Zack Villarreal said the coaching crew has been impressed with Calverley’s progress, having watched her grow and mature.
“Mentally, her game has improved dramatically,” Sanders. said. “She is a great leader by example and vocally, as well.”
Calverley said the team’s progress over the years is as a result of the dedication of the coaches. On the expectations for the 2009 season, Calverley said the team will be gunning for the regional title.
“Marci set the conference championships as a challenge every year to her players. She made us strive for it,” said Calverley. “Now that we are there, (the coaches) are not letting us settle for conference. They want to win everything.”
Currently undeclared, Calverley intends to declare her major in interdisciplinary studies and also get a teaching certificate for early childhood education.
She said she plans to follow in her mom’s footsteps, teaching fifth and six graders. She also plans to coach volleyball to young children once she graduates.