Senior Erin Neuenfeldt is taking her serves, sets, and spikes to South Carolina. She has committed to play indoor and sand volleyball for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks next year.
Neuenfeldt will be playing under second year head coach Scott Swanson who finished his first season 14-16. She will also be a member of the Gamecock’s first ever sand volleyball team lead by head coach Moritz Moritz.
The senior outside and defensive specialist was a captain of this year’s Seaholm regional championship team and finished the season with an All-State honorable mention.
Neuenfeldt currently plays with the Legacy Volleyball Club, one of Southeast Michigan’s best volleyball programs. The team competes nationally, playing in tournaments across the Midwest and as far away as Kentucky, Maryland, and Las Vegas. In fact, every member of the team is committed to play college volleyball.
The commit became official on April 2, and it was just two months before that that USC expressed interest in Nuenfeldt as a member of their volleyball teams. Before that Neuenfeldt was debating between volleyball at a smaller school or being a student at Michigan State University.
“I was deciding between a big school, just student experience or playing at a smaller school, but then this came along and it just fell on the plate so I got really lucky that I can have both the big school experience and the volleyball experience,” Neuenfeldt said.
Seaholm volleyball head coach Heather Lippert is fully supportive of her decision and believes USC is giving her a great opportunity to take advantage of not just one, but two volleyball teams.
“They are allowing her to get the best of both worlds and play indoor AND beach which is awesome and she has always said she wanted to be someplace warm,” Lippert said in an email.
The Neuenfeldt family is no stranger to college volleyball. Erin’s older sister Paige is a freshman volleyball player at the University of North Carolina and was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the year in her sport.
The sisters and former Maple teammates have always been there for each other on and off the court and have helped make one another into the players they are today.
“We never went easy on each other and I think we were able to push each other all the time,” Paige said. “Even though we were sisters, it didn’t really matter we were going to make each other better and I think that is the biggest impact she had on me. And just bringing fun to the court too, her energy and spirit is so much fun to play with and I think playing with her in high school has really translated and I’m more of an energetic player because of her.”
UNC is part of the ACC while South Carolina is a member of the South Eastern Conference, so they may never meet on the court, but both sisters are excited to be closer and be able to see each other next year.
“It’s only four hours away versus if I stayed in state, it would have been closer to fourteen, so now we can meet halfway two hours and hang out with each other, so it definitely played a role, I just want to be close to her,” Erin said.
Even though their separate conferences, there may be a friendly, family feud between the two players.
“There’s always a little thing between North Carolina and South Carolina, we always want to be the better Carolina,” Paige said.
Although they may be rooting against each other’s school during the first football game of the year when North Carolina plays at South Carolina, they will always cheer for one another on the courts.
“The first game of the North Carolina is traveling to South Carolina for football so there might be some kidding or teasing or friendly rivalry, but when it comes to volleyball I guarantee you each one of them wants the other to do really well and be very successful personally and as a team,” father Joe Neuenfeldt said.
With both daughters in the Carolinas, even Mr. and Mrs. Neuenfeldt are considering making the move South.
“Yes, there is a very strong consideration to moving down South to being with those guys so we can watch them play…if we can swing that, we’re going to be gone, we’re out of here,” Joe Neuenfeldt said.
As for Erin’s future at USC, it is uncertain how much playing time she will be getting as she starts her career there, but she intends to continue working hard in order to earn a spot.
“I probably won’t play very much indoor this year because they have a lot of defensive specialists returning that are really good, but I definitely can gain a position on the team and I’ll get better with the training and the sand volleyball will make be better for indoor,” Erin said. “Definitely in the future though, I can try to gain those spots.”
Her family is confident that her hard work ethic will continue to be rewarded.
“I believe she’ll work her way into a position because she’s always outworked everybody and always gave the extra effort and made herself into a really great player and a really great teammate,” Joe Neuenfeldt said.
Being a D1 collegiate athlete while managing classes and school work can be a challenge but Erin is eager to start her journey.
“Well I’m really excited to see what the whole student athlete experience is like, game days, walking across the court, having all the gear, and the pace of the volleyball game is so much faster and so much more intense,” Erin said.
“Being a D1 student athlete is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do,” Paige said. “Just waking up at the crack of dawn and not getting bed until midnight because you have homework and class and practice and weights. It can be a really tough life, but it’s worth it, every single moment of it.”
As Erin becomes a University of South Carolina Gamecock nobody is more proud of her than her family.
“I guess you could say it’s an understatement how proud I am of Erin,” Joe Nuenfeldt said. “When it comes to volleyball, Erin is a little undersized for her position she plays and to be able to end up at a school like South Carolina, I just couldn’t be prouder of her and what she’s accomplished and how hard she’s worked to get there.”