A lot can happen in just a couple of years. Just ask April Addeo.
Then again, some things never seem to change. Consider the Feb. 5, 1997 scene when Addeo flashed a broad smile when she signed a volleyball national-letter-of-intent with Northwestern State University in front of friends and family at Douglas High School.
Addeo has since exchanged her look from brunette to blonde, and she's not at Northwestern State anymore.
On Thursday night, however, she stood on the floor of the University of Nevada's Old Gym floor surrounded by friends and family - and the broad smile was still there.
Addeo didn't play for Nevada in its Big West Conference volleyball match against defending national champion Long Beach State, but that didn't seem to matter. She was simply exited about playing Division I volleyball with a program that qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1998.
"I'm having a blast," said Addeo, a 5-foot-11 junior middle blocker. "The girls are amazing. This is the closest team I've ever been on.
"I play every now and then, but to me, it's an honor just to be a part of a team that's so close and positive."
The Big West also happens to be one of the top collegiate volleyball conferences. The USA Today/American Volleyball Coaches Association rankings published last week listed Pacific at No. 5, Long Beach State at No. 6 and U.C. Santa Barbara at No. 9.
The goal under coach Devin Scruggs is to move up and join the nation's volleyball elite.
"We should be in the top 25 now, but of course, I'm biased," said Addeo, the only home state product on the Wolf Pack roster. "It's definitely within our grasp. Definitely, one day we'll make it."
Addeo was team captain and MVP during her senior season at Douglas High. But after she went back to Nathicohes, La., in the fall of 1997 it wasn't long before she decided she wanted to be closer to home.
"Things just didn't work out too well," said Addeo, who transferred to Nevada in January, 1998. "I checked here and they needed a middle at the time, so it worked out well.
"I enjoyed my experience back there. I just decided I wanted to be closer to home, that's all. I definitely like being at home and having all my friends and family around," added Addeo, a chemistry major who graduated from Douglas with a 4.17 grade point average.
She said as much during that February interview two years ago.
"I'm excited, but I'm scared, too," she said. "I'm a very family oriented person so I'm going to miss being close to home. But I'm excited about the challenge of playing D-1 and to see how far I can go."
And she is still going ...
Wolf Pack notes ... Even though Nevada is a young team with only one senior on its roster - outside hitter Lauren Netherby - it (10-6, 17-10) challenged for a repeat Big West Eastern Division championship. Utah State defeated Nevada Saturday night in Logan (15-6, 17-15, 15-9) to clinch first-place and earn a shot at Western Division winner Pacific for the Big West title Nov. 20 in Stockton, Calif.
There were signs of potential in Nevada's final home date of the season, a loss to Long Beach State on Thursday (15-9, 15-7, 13-15, 15-4). The Wolf Pack forced Long Beach State to take an early time-out by jumping out to a 7-2 lead in game one. The Wolf Pack was also up 5-3 in game two. Winning one game was of some consolation, considering Long Beach State (14-1, 22-2) had dropped only five games during its 14-match win streak.
"We were up against the defending national champs and we came out and played solid in all four games," Addeo said.
The Wolf Pack faced a towering Long Beach State squad that included 6-foot-6 Tayyiba Haneef, 6-2 Cheryl Weaver, 6-2 Brandy Barratt and 5-10 Veronica Walls, who jumps more like a 6-4. (The 49ers roster also includes 6-3 freshman Blair Wilkes from Durango High in Las Vegas). On the other hand, Nevada has only three players listed at 6-feet - Michelle More (6-1), Kellie LaBossiere (6-0) and Shannon Stemler (6-0). LaBossiere, a sophomore middle blocker, leads the team in kills and hitting percentage.
What the Wolf Pack lacks in height is compensated for with hustle and defense.
"Defense wins ball games and that definitely helped us tonight," Addeo said.
One telling statistic of that defense, the Wolf Pack has compiled a 16-1 record in matches where the opposition has a hitting percentage of .200 or lower.
Nevada concludes its season Thursday with a 7 p.m. non-conference match at Cal-Berkeley.