Oct. 18, 2010
It was only four years ago, yet it feels like another time period to senior Stephanie Neville when she arrived at Florida State University. She played for a volleyball team that carried a respectable reputation, but was looking for that surge that could bring people in the stands, create an intimidating atmosphere and eventually build a nationally-ranked program.
The 2007 season was not considered a down year at the time, as the Seminoles finished 16-14 overall, including 13-9 in the competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. But the infusion of new and talented players, along with the immense progression of current seniors Jenna Romanelli, Taylor Wilson, Lauren Young and Neville, finally created a Renaissance-type era that once seemed virtually impossible when Neville began her collegiate career.
“We have way more fans coming now, which is awesome because it’s so much more fun to play in front of a big crowd,” Neville said. “I remember the first year, half the time the gym was almost empty. Now more people on campus are talking about us – when I was at the bus stop the other day, a girl sat down next to me and said, `Oh my God, you’re on the volleyball team. You’re like a celebrity. I was at the Virginia game,’ whereas before I feel like people didn’t even know who I was freshman year.”
Neville, who hails from Cambridge, Ontario, has been a strong point in the Seminole Resurgence. All she has done is continuously earn time on the floor since coming in as a wide-eyed freshman, even playing in 21 matches and starting nine in her first season. As one of the team’s top outside hitters, her individual success has played a key role in FSU’s prominent path, and Neville continues to see the tell-tale signs around Tallahassee.
“In the athletic department, people are congratulating us on all of our success,” Neville added. “They’re keeping up with our games. It just seems like there’s a lot more awareness about volleyball around Tallahassee and at Florida State now that we’ve had some success in the past couple of years. Hopefully, it keeps going after we graduate too. Hopefully we started something that is going to last.”
As a sophomore, Neville showed no nerves by finishing third on the team with 271 kills, and even earned ACC Player of the Week honors on Oct. 27, 2008, after amassing 23 kills in wins over Virginia and Virginia Tech. She has also earned All-ACC Academic Team honors, and is a two-time ACC Academic Honor Roll recipient.
The honors she receives are never easy to attain, whether it’s working four hours in the gym each day or spending your nights in the academic center cramming for an exam. But what drives her to be good at everything she pursues is a level of competitiveness that is out of this world.
“All my friends tell me I’m the most competitive person they’ve met, not just in sports but even in a random card game on a Thursday night,” Neville stated. “I have to be playing 100 percent and winning. I take it personally when I lose a game of Monopoly. We’ll do warm-up games in the gym and I’m all over the place, never say die, and everyone says, `It’s just a game.’ It’s kind of funny because I’m kind of extreme like that.”
According to Neville, the highly-desired trait is purely hereditary.
“My dad is like that,” she said of her inner drive. “He was more of an athlete, he wasn’t into one specific sport. He played football, hockey and was real athletic. Growing up, time with our dad was baseball in the front yard, or playing soccer or tag outside. It was always athletic-related activities. My mom is diligent too, so I think I get some of my drive from her, but she is more of the musical, academic type of person. She enjoys doing sports, but she is this tiny woman so I think I get more of that from my dad.”
Despite having all the qualities of a hard-nosed individual, Neville enjoys plenty of other things outside of sports. She is crazy about the movie Moulin Ruge, saying she has watched it over 50 times, and loves listening to Dashboard Confessional because of its large array of music that fits her style. She enjoys shopping at several department stores, and many times prefers the low-maintenance look that includes stylish and sophisticated yoga wear.
Although she holds a calming presence as an everyday person, her emotions are always expanded once she steps on the court. With it being her final season, there are many bittersweet moments to look forward to, including senior night on Nov. 14 against N.C. State.
“I think it’s going to be awesome. My grandpa is supposed to be here and so are my parents, so it’ll be a really cool moment with them standing up there with me,” Neville said. “I can’t believe it’s already here, and I remember last year Jordana (Price) was graduating and I was bawling because I didn’t want her to leave, and I couldn’t believe that she was already at that point where she was going to be finished. It’s just around the corner for us too.”
It is hard for Neville to imagine what life could be like for her following volleyball. The marketing and finance double-major foresees her team playing for an extended period of time once again, and magnifies every moment that passes this year since it will be her last as a Seminole student-athlete.
“It’s kind of scary. It’s going to be a lot different,” Neville added. “We’re used to this whole thing that we’ve been doing for four years – practice, games on the weekend, hanging out with your teammates. It’s kind of like a set of insta-friends – you know everyone is going to be friends with you because you’re with them all the time so you get to know them, and it’s easy to hang out with them.”
For now, Neville and the Seminoles have plenty of things to look forward to in the immediate future. And if she continues to play with her competitive demeanor that many have come to know her by, the senior standout will have a fitting final season that leaves her permanent imprint in what is known as the Seminole Resurgence.