Volleyball has just always been a way of life for Nicole Fawcett. She grew up watching her parents compete on club teams, and joined her first squad at age 9. Her mother, Kim, played in college at Wright State University, and her father, Bob, was her high school coach.
That early exposure to the game served Fawcett well. She earned a spot on the U.S. Junior National team as a high schooler, and later won Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year honors before taking a scholarship to Penn State. Fawcett then was named National Freshman of the Year in '05 and National Player of the Year in '08, leading the Nittany Lions to national titles her final two seasons.
In 2009, she joined the U.S. Senior National Team. More accolades and championships seemed destined to come her way. But at the most elite level of volleyball, every player around you is just that -- elite.
Fawcett saw playing time with senior team, but it was infrequent. The Americans already had outstanding veterans at her opposite hitter position, and some youngsters just as excellent as Fawcett. The U.S. took two opposites to the 2012 Olympics, and Fawcett wasn't one of them.
So she continued to ply her trade all over the world. A pro career that began in Puerto Rico made stops in Russia, Brazil, China, South Korea and Italy. In 2013, while playing in South Korea, where she was heavily relied upon for scoring, Fawcett once set a world record for most individual points in a match with 55.
When the time came to compete for Team USA, she made the most of it. Fawcett was named MVP of the 2013 Pan American Cup, helped the U.S. win its first FIVB World Championship in 2014, and was named MVP of the 2015 NORCECA Championship. During the 2015 FIVB World Cup, Fawcett was the Americans' leading scorer.
Now 29, Fawcett appears set to make her Olympic debut in Rio. There are still excellent youngsters in the U.S. program, but she's now one of the outstanding veterans.