Pilot in the Spotlight: Transfer Nevaeh Bray volleys back to UP

Indoor volleyball player Bray excited to return to the UP court as well as continuing her activism off the court.

By Antonio Acosta | April 5, 2024 7:27pm
Nevaeh Bray celebrates with her team on the sidelines during a volleyball game.
Media Credit: Ryan Reynolds / The Beacon

In 2020, Nevaeh Bray, a middle blocker from San Diego, California joined UP’s indoor volleyball team. But, after competing as Pilot for one and a half years, Bray suffered a serious concussion that halted her athletic career and catalyzed her decision to leave UP, unsure of what the future held for her. 

“When I was in the portal I dropped out of college and everything, so after fall semester [I] was no longer attending school,” Bray said. “I didn’t even know where I was going to work, what I was going to do.”

Ultimately, in 2022, Bray decided to transfer to a historically Black college, Jackson State University, where she felt she could break out of the box placed on her by others. 

“[When I was at Jackson State] I didn’t feel like I was in a box like at my old school [UP],” Bray said. “I was able to move freely and be surrounded by peers that also were creative and didn’t feel like they had to be boxed in because they were all Black.”

Her time at Jackson State was good as she was able to experience life without having to fit into others’ ideas of her, but Bray decided to return to UP in 2023 after talking with UP coaches because of the familiarity, safety and athletic and academic opportunities available at UP.

One of the opportunities available for Bray at UP was the chance to continue her volleyball career. Due to NCAA rules regarding two time transfers Bray did not know if she was going to be able to play during the 2023 season. Even with that worry in mind, the coaches here at UP decided to give Bray the opportunity to return to the team. 

“I remember talking on the phone for an hour about reasons why I left and what I was looking for now,” Bray said. “And the fact that I knew that my volleyball career was on the line.” 

Now back on the team, Bray is eager to have a strong athletic comeback as a Pilot after a long hiatus — and continue engaging in meaningful political work on and off campus.

“I think this is just such a young squad that you have to give credit where credit’s due,” Bray said. “And we’re still learning and we’re still building off one another, and I’m still optimistic that we’ll continue to excel and get more wins.”

Last season, UP’s indoor volleyball team achieved their most individual wins in a season since 2018. Although she was not able to play due to the NCAA regulations, Bray played an important role as a leader on the team as an older player, and enjoys being a vocal supporter for her teammates.

“There’s a lot of expectation, not just from the players, but more so my coach to lead by example,” Bray said. “Set the tone and the standard of what it looks like when we’re in the gym, how we’re competing, how loud we are. I’m constantly yelling, and shouting, and screaming and hyping people up.”

As indoor volleyball enters the offseason, Bray aims to hold herself accountable as a leader through journaling and writing down her goals as physical reminders of what she has or hasn’t achieved. Specifically, Bray is looking to hit new maxes in the vertical jump as well as maintaining a good balance between her academic and athletic work. 

“Journaling has been my way of setting bars by writing out and speaking out what my goals are month to month, day to day, but then also year to year,” Bray said. “For me, setting bars happens every day, like every day I lay a brick and hopefully by the end of the year I have this dope mansion.”

Bray also engages in activism off the court for on-campus events, specifically in supporting the Black community. In February, Bray helped to organize an event with the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), the Black History Month Celebration Event — an event that promoted Black businesses in the Portland area, allowing them to come to a women’s basketball game and showcase their businesses. 

“We have a strong Black community here in Portland, you just have to go seek it,” Bray said. “I came here at the start of the 2020 when the Black Lives Matter movement was bursting at the seams and I feel like I was at the forefront of that.”

Off campus, Bray has been outspoken politically, protesting and working with various organizations during the BLM movement in 2020. However, this is not where Bray’s off-the-court achievements stop.

In 2020 Bray entered a new world very different from her athletic career — modeling. Modeling for Bray has been a new way for her to be able to express herself creatively, and acts as a role model for young women who look like her. 

Nevaeh Bray modeling. Photo courtesy of Molly Piczek.

“I think where I'm at in my modeling journey is being able to actually represent and be a face that other little girls like me can see,” Bray said. “And look up to where I am now, the industry’s at a point where it’s growing and I feel like there’s space for everyone.”

Overall, Bray is looking forward to the upcoming season, her final year of eligibility, and reengaging in her tried and true pre-game routine — making sure that she gets her yoga stretches in, not eating too much food and listening to “Seeing Green” by Nicki Minaj. 

“It's specifically Nikki's part on that song that just spoke to me,” Bray said. “There's one line, like it says, ‘I ball in any arena, go let the fans in.’ So to me it’s like I’ve played here at UP and at Jackson State now I’m back — it doesn’t matter where I’m at, I ball out regardless.”

Heading into the offseason, Bray is ready to bring 100 percent to UP and help the team improve on their year. For Bray, it doesn’t matter where she plays, she is going to ball out regardless of where. 

Antonio Acosta is a sports reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at acostaa26@up.edu.