For her, this isn’t just another season. This isn’t just another game. This isn’t just another play. This is something more, something bigger than herself. It’s all of her hard work. All of the sweat and tears and hours and pain she’s pushed in between the floorboards of the Virginia Street Gym. Her knee pads are weathered and seasoned from diving play after play. Her forearms look burned from rally after rally, and her eyes focus straight ahead between two loose strands of blonde hair falling from her ponytail. The ball slowly rises into the air, and everyone leans in, preparing for yet another rally. Lyndsey Anderson is one of the best volleyball players at the University of Nevada, Reno, and arguably one of the best to ever step onto the court at Nevada. Yet as she heads into her senior season as a setter and 10th all-time in career assists, she can still remember the first time she ever threw on the Wolf Pack jersey, and looking back at it all, what it truly meant to her to be a part of the Nevada women’s volleyball team.
Born and raised in the city of Sparks, Nevada, with her mom, dad and little brother, Ryan, Anderson was surrounded by the Pack her whole life.
“The university was always a part of my life, even from a very young age,” Anderson said. “We have always been a family that is Nevada strong, and we’ve always been big supporters to this school. I love it.”
Anderson attended Spanish Springs High School and is the most decorated athlete from the 2013 graduating class. She played softball, track, basketball and of course volleyball. The Sparks native lettered four times in varsity basketball at SSHS. On top of that, she is the reigning 4A Nevada Player of the Year, is the Spanish Springs record holder in assists and serving percentage, led SSHS to a Nevada 4A State Championship, and was a 4.0 student.
“I’ve played basketball since I can remember, and I started volleyball in middle school, and It was so different,” Anderson said. “It was how it made me feel. Once I started playing volleyball, I realized this is the sport I love the most.”
Anderson graduated from SSHS in 2013 with her heart invested in volleyball. The varsity setter received D-I offers from the University of Idaho, University Pacific, New Mexico State University and the University of Nevada, Reno. Yet as soon as she got an offer from the silver and blue, Anderson committed early.
“It felt right. I wanted to get that off my shoulders,” Anderson said. “I’m so glad I got the opportunity.”
The Sparks native arrived at Nevada with high hopes and ambition to be a great volleyball player, and she was. Anderson ranked second on the squad in assists (389) and assists per set (6.27) in her rookie season, recorded 20 or more assists eight times, recorded 40 or more assists twice, and was named to the 2013 All-MW Academic team. As for her team, it struggled immensely, as Nevada went 4-28 on the season and 2-18 in its conference.
“When I got to Nevada, I wondered if I could compete with these girls, but it only took me a couple of weeks for me to feel like I fit in with them,” Anderson said. “But as the season went on and we kept losing matches, it was hard to remain positive during the season, no question.”
Anderson decided to come back and make the change toward a new season with her team. Yet the results stayed the same. Anderson led Nevada with 801 assists and 8.09 assists per set, tallied 40 or more assists in six matches, ranked ninth in the Mountain West in assists and aces per set with .24, and ranked sixth in the conference in double-doubles. However, Nevada as a whole struggled yet again and went 8-20 on the season and 5-13 in conference. As the season ended, staying positive became more and more of a challenge for the Nevada setter.
“It was hard to keep my head up sometimes because we just weren’t winning enough,” Anderson said. “In the back of my mind, I was constantly second-guessing myself and having doubts, and I wasn’t happy about it. I knew I wanted to be here though, so commitment pushed me through.”
Anderson began her junior year dedicated to a new start. The ambitious junior was ready to make a statement, and she planned to do so with her new coach. Lee Nelson left the University of Miami to come to Nevada in January of 2015, where he led the team to three NCAA tournament appearances. Nelson saw massive potential in Anderson.
“My first impression of Lyndsey was that she was a worker who didn’t take plays off,” Nelson said. “Over time that impression has only been reinforced. She really does play hard all the time.”
Nevada went on to show notable improvement in the 2015 season under Nelson’s leadership. The Pack went 13-17 on the season and 7-11 in its conference, the team’s best record since 2010. Anderson ranked second on the team with 232 assists and 8.92 assists per set, grabbed 20 or more assists in seven matches, and turned in one of the best performances of the season after grabbing 57 assists, 16 digs, three aces and three blocks in the massive 3-2 upset of the No. 25 ranked Wyoming Cowgirls, one of the biggest upsets in program history.
“That game was my favorite game I’ve ever played in,” Anderson said. “We came together so perfectly that day, we could do no wrong. It really took off from there.”
From then on it was all smooth sailing. Anderson and the Pack are currently on their best start for the first time in 14 years with a 9-4 record. The potential is through the roof for this Nevada team, and expectations are high, especially for the decorated setter.
“If we come together the way I know we can, we can really make a difference this season,” Anderson said. “I would hate to leave with a sour taste in my mouth.”
Anderson came to Nevada with the purpose to be a great volleyball player, just like her mother. Lisa Anderson played volleyball for Nevada from 1987-1988, making Lyndsey a legacy to the game. Her father, Scott Anderson, played Nevada baseball from 1986-1988, and now her little brother, Ryan, is currently holding down a spot as pitcher on the Nevada baseball team. From watching her as a baby to seeing her finish her college years, Lyndsey’s family always sends her its support.
“We are so proud of how Lyndsey has handled herself as a student-athlete during her career at Nevada. It takes a special drive to compete daily at this level, and she has faced adversity,” Lisa Anderson said. “I believe she has been a wonderful role model, and I think she will be remembered as a player who helped kick-start a new winning chapter for Nevada volleyball.”
Nevada volleyball is coming up on playing Boise State, San Jose State and Fresno State University. This will be Anderson’s last season on the court and last time as a setter for Nevada. An environmental science major, the Nevada legacy is still figuring out what the plan is next.
“If Lyndsey can take the hard work that she puts in with volleyball and apply it to her next undertaking, there is no doubt in my mind that she will be a great success,” Nelson said.
The ball hits Anderson’s palm, flying directly into the hardwood. The whistle blows, and the crowd erupts. That’s game over. She did it again, and she is swarmed by her teammates. She looks around her and notices the way the lights flicker in the Virginia Street Gym. She acknowledges the floor streaks. She sees the rickety layered bleachers and the fans shaking them in a way like they might collapse. Yet all she can do is smile. This isn’t just a game. This isn’t just another season. This is her home. This is Lyndsey Anderson.
Will Compton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.