All-American Nicole Britenriker excels despite long-distance move two years ago
It's a little under a days drive, but what a change it was for emerging volleyball standout Nicole Britenriker. When Nicole heard her family was moving from Tampa, Florida to Ohio, Nicole was devastated, but not as crushed as the East Lake High girls volleyball team. As a freshman, Nicole started for East Lake, but in the middle of her sophomore year she was told she would have to move with her family to the Cincinnati area of Ohio due to her dad's job.
Britenriker would have liked to have stayed in Florida and finished out her career at East Lake, but she didn't want to be away from her family, either. Britenriker could have gone to any school, including private school powers Ursuline and St. Ursula, but she chose the local public school near the new family home. Shes been a Mason High Comet ever since. "Moving was a really big change," explains the All-American middle blocker. "I'd always gone to big public schools and I felt I'd meet more people faster that way. Going to an all-girls Catholic school I thought would be too much. I think about those other schools from time to time, but I don't have any regrets."
"She's like a gift from God," exclaims Julee Hill, head coach at Mason High for the past 14 years. "I've been coaching for 19 years and she's better than anyone I've ever seen. She has every gift it takes to be great in this sport, she jumps higher and hangs in the air longer, and she has the agility, the speed, the quickness and the brains. Usually, players are one-dimensional, but she's as good in the front as she is in the back and vice versa. Nicole has all the tools."
And just where did she get those hops? "It's natural," tells Britenriker. "I didn't jump much as a little kid and when I started to play volleyball in sixth grade, people started saying, 'Oh my God! She can jump high!'" Known for her high flying, ball pounding style, this 5-11 senior is looking to lead her Comets further than they've ever been before in the playoffs. "We are a very inexperienced team this year," says Britenriker. "I'm the only returning varsity player. But my team is extremely athletic and we have the ability to learn and get better." "They're having a great time playing with her," says Hill. "Nicole is really patient with them and works with everyone. Right now I'm starting two freshmen and playing with her is a great experience for them."
Britenriker started playing volleyball the summer of her eighth grade. Some might say that's a bit late to start playing these days and compete at the next level with girls being virtually bred for the sport, but Nicole has proved that she can hang with the most experienced players. Before making the U.S. Youth National team last summer for the second year in a row, Britenriker led her club team, Team Z, to its second consecutive J.O. (Junior Olympic) championship. Britenriker then went to Lake Placid, N.Y., where the U.S. team prepared for the Youth World Championships in Poland. The Americans wound up in fourth-place. "I love the competitiveness," explains Britenriker. "It's like, 'We're the U.S. and nobody is going to beat us.' It was really a great experience."
Britenriker is a leader on the court and in the classroom. With a 3.8 GPA and her playing ability, she's a prime candidate for a Division I scholarship. She's tripped to the University of Florida, Ohio State and Minnesota and said she would make her decision after a trip to UCLA at the end of October. And if moving far has anything to do with her plans, Britenriker already has plenty of experience doing that.