Rigoni always playing with Dad’s Weekend vibes


Junior setter Nicole Rigoni sets the ball up for her teammates in a match against Stanford on Sept. 30.

With the No. 23 WSU women’s volleyball team returning home for a pair of matches against Oregon State and No. 20 Oregon this weekend, junior setter Nicole Rigoni draws from the same sources of motivation she has for her entire playing career: her dad and playing in the Pac-12.

“My dad is definitely my biggest supporter,” she said. “He is always there for me, and always has a great motivational speech to pick me up. He is my number- one fan. My dad never misses a game.”

Family from the beginning

Rigoni’s father Arnie is a former nose guard for the University of Montana football team; the same school her mother, Wendy, played volleyball at. Rigoni said athletics “run in the family” and sports have always been a big part of her life.

“My biggest motivation is my competitors and playing in the Pac-12,” Rigoni said.

Rigoni started playing volleyball in third grade for her local recreational team in Beaverton, Oregon, and began playing competitively a year later, paving her road to becoming a Division I athlete.

Familiar teams coming to town

Rigoni graduated from Southridge High School in Beaverton in 2014 where she earned first team all-state honors with The Oregonian and was named Metro League Player of the year her senior season. She then spent two years at Eastern Washington University before transferring to WSU in January.

After suffering two 0-3 losses last weekend at the hands of No. 17 Stanford and California, WSU (17-7, 7-5) hopes to regain some of its offensive aggressiveness displayed earlier in the season and control matches on both ends.

“This season, we’ve had some really great wins, and some bad losses,” Rigoni said. “But the Pac-12 is tough and we aren’t going to fix everything overnight. … It’s time to take the pressure off a little bit, to not worry about our ranking or a few losses.”

A quarterback on the court

Splitting playing time at setter with senior Haley MacDonald, Rigoni usually is the recipient of the team’s second of three offensive touches per possession. In this role, it is Rigoni’s job to adjust the height and speed for the hitter attempting to kill the ball.

As a setter, Rigoni reads the defense and positions the ball to each player’s skill set to ensure that the momentum of the play is not interrupted when the third and final hit is made.

“In football, you have the quarterback and his job is to assist his teammates, get the running backs the ball, call the plays and stand as a leader for his team,” Rigoni said. “In volleyball, the setter is like the quarterback. It’s my job to set our hitters good balls, but also keep everyone motivated and keep everyone’s confidence up.”

Bringing the heat back to Bohler

Rigoni attributes the team’s turnaround season to the raucous energy and support it receives in matches played at Bohler Gym. Competing in the same venue her coaches played in 20 years ago, Rigoni said that the team’s upset victory over then No. 9 Stanford on Sept. 30 in Bohler Gym marked the moment that Cougar volleyball’s successful teams of the past relayed over into the present outlook of the program.

“The fans were saying how fourth and fifth set really got their hearts racing, and it was the same for us on the court,” Rigoni said. “It was so exciting. It was also the first time we beat Stanford at home since our coaches played, so that was special to bring that win back around.”

When the Cougars take on Oregon State today, it will be more of the same for Rigoni. Bohler will be loud, she will rack up assists as WSU looks to galvanize its offense in a winnable match and her dad and family will again be in attendance.