Four years ago, high school volleyball recruit Sierra Nobley of Scottsdale, Ariz., walked through the Idaho snow toward the Boise State campus to visit coach Shawn Garus.
“I remember it vividly,” Garus said. “There was this kid from Scottsdale, Arizona, and the morning she flew into Boise, it snowed.”
Garus took Nobley to the Stueckle Sky Center high above Albertsons Stadium. It was one of those beautiful Idaho winter days where the sun starts to melt the snow by noon, and the mountains are covered by a glistening, white blanket.
“She’s a really artsy kid, so she loves the outdoorsy part of Boise,” Garus said. “We took her up to Stueckle and she got to see a lay of the land, the river running through town and she fell in love.”
Nobley, a top-25 recruit out of Horizon High in Scottsdale, according to MaxPreps.com, is a 6-foot-1 junior outside hitter for the Broncos. She was the 2014 Mountain West Freshman of the Year, and a 2015 honorable mention All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
This season, Nobley leads the Mountain West in kills with 327 (ranked 25th nationally), and she’s already third on the Boise State career list with 1,272, with a chance to move to No. 2 this week. She’s also on pace to break the career Mountain West record of 1,623 (Chantale Riddle, New Mexico, 2011-14).
“I’m not focused so much on getting records,” Nobley said. “It’s just fun to be able to do what I do best, and make Boise State recognized in our conference and the nation.”
When Garus took over the program in 2009, it had one winning season in its previous 10 years. Since Nobley joined Boise State for the 2014 season, the Broncos are 56-25 overall and 32-12 in the Mountain West. This year’s team is 15-6 and 6-2 in the Mountain West going into home matches against New Mexico (5 p.m. Thursday) and UNLV (2 p.m. Saturday).
Last season, the Broncos won 23 matches and just missed an at-large invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
Nobley wants to be the player who leads the team to its first ever NCAA appearance.
“I would say I’m a pretty steady, collected, kind of calm player, and I wouldn’t say I’m super emotional or a rah-rah kind of player,” she said. “We have some of the people who are more high energy, and some who are steady, so we balance each other out and have a good chemistry on the court.”
Nobley, who is a natural attacker, plays a dynamic position in outside hitter, serving as the primary offensive threat and utilizing angles to hit around taller middle blockers. Senior middle blocker Maddy O’Donnell has a much different style on the court than Nobley, and is second on the team in kills.
“I think Sierra and I just have different personalities, which actually really works on our team,” O’Donnell said. “She’s just a very smart player and has a way of bringing this calming sense to the players, whereas I think that I may be a little more in their face and aggressive.
“It works for some people, and that works for other people on our team, so I think having both of us with different leadership skills, that’s beneficial.”
As a self-described intellectual, a reader of novels such as Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and a double major in graphic design and marketing, Nobley has different styles on and off the court. The laid-back personality, who was a reserved player early in her college career, has blossomed as a hitter on the court.
“I would say I just think a lot, and sometimes that can be a vice, because then the next serve is coming and I’m still thinking about the last play,” Nobley said. “I guess I was overthinking everything as a freshman, but I feel like maturity wise I am more comfortable.
“I know I can take accountability for my mistakes, and I can keep other people accountable for theirs. Overthinking is not fun, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it.”
Garus sees what Nobley brings to the table outside of volleyball, such as her artistic nature and calm demeanor.
“I don’t think she has tunnel vision for volleyball. She has a great balance in her life, and she is a great volleyball player, but it’s not the only thing that’s out there for her,” Garus said. “She just has a lot more balance than most people do.”
A trustworthy and focused player and student, the two-time Academic All-Mountain West player is respected on the team. With a year-and-a-half in the program left, the best for Nobley may still be yet to come.
“She’s really bright and capable of conquering the world through Boise State volleyball and through academics,” Garus said. “She’s really special.”
TWO VALLEY PLAYERS ON THE ROSTER
Junior libero Maddi Osburn (Vallivue High) and sophomore outside hitter Emily Sullivan (Bishop Kelly High) are two of the top stat leaders on the Broncos’ roster this season. Osburn is 29th nationally with 5.04 digs per set, while Sullivan is 23rd nationally with 0.45 aces per set.