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A Wolfpacker from Wolverine Country

NC State freshman finds inspiration on and off the volleyball court.

Photographs courtesy of NC State Athletics.

By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Ava Brizard arrived at NC State in 2021 with a host of volleyball accolades, including two-time Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year. During her first year with the Wolfpack, she quickly collected more — two-time ACC Freshman of the Week and ACC All-Freshman Team honors. At 6-foot-1, the outside hitter from Novi, Mich., was second on the team in kills and third in digs.

Traveling 700 miles from home to play for NC State and Coach Luka Slabe was a no-brainer. Slabe worked with Team USA women’s volleyball, which won Olympic gold at the 2020 Tokyo Games; Brizard has her own Olympic dreams. “He teaches me something new every day,” she says.

Volleyball wasn’t always Brizard’s sport. At age 3, she started playing tennis, but burned out by middle school. She signed up for some volleyball clinics and joined her high school team, loving the the sport’s fast-paced nature and camaraderie.

But her thoughts aren’t too far from her home and her younger brother, Drew, who has autism and is a top player on his basketball team. When she won a $10,000 grant through Gatorade’s Play It Forward program in 2022, she donated it to programs that he participates in through Special Olympics. “No one goes about life with more joy than he does,” she says. “And that’s really inspirational.”

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