Sometimes, practice will stop and Sierra Ellett will ask for advice.
Her teammates don't mind. They get it.
Despite being one of the oldest players on the UND volleyball roster, Ellett has not played indoor volleyball in more than five years.
The graduate transfer has spent the last four years at Arizona State playing beach volleyball, a two-person game that is played vastly different than six-person indoor volleyball.
"Indoor is a swing-first mentality," Ellett said. "Indoor is a lot more power than beach. Beach is more mental. You have to figure out where they're not. There are more roll shots, more tips, more over-on-twos, more over-on-ones. In indoor, you want to hit for power. You want to hit certain spots that are not the exact spots I would be hitting in beach."
Ellett is one of the new faces on the UND roster this season looking to help the Fighting Hawks bounce back from a 2-16 season a year ago.
Her background may be the most unique of all.
Ellett grew up in Scottsdale, Ariz., playing indoor volleyball and actually committed to play at the University of Manitoba. But she withdrew her commitment when she realized she had a better shot to play at a bigger school if she transitioned to beach volleyball.
Ellett made the switch to beach, landed a spot with the hometown Sun Devils and played in the Pac-12 for four years.
"I was finishing my senior year at ASU playing beach volleyball, and with the way the season was going, I knew I didn't want it to be my last time playing volleyball," Ellett said. "I had a conversation with my coach at ASU and I entered the transfer portal as an indoor player. I sent out a couple emails to schools I was interested in that had my (academic) program. UND was one of the first schools to show interest."
Ellett said UND coach Jeremiah Tiffin was adamant that he didn't want to completely change her game.
"Coach Tiffin was one of the only ones who said, 'I understand you're a beach player and you want to come to indoor. We're not going to change a lot. I'm going to see what's in your toolbox and use it to your advantage,'" Ellett said. "Ensuring that he wasn't going to change who I was, and instead build upon it, was one of the big reasons I ended up here."
Unique UND connections
Although Ellett had never stepped foot in North Dakota until she arrived on campus in late June, she already had a couple of connections to the school.
Her cousin is UND men's hockey sophomore defenseman Cooper Moore. Her father, Dave, played 16 years in the NHL. When he was with the Winnipeg Jets, his roommate for three years was Brad Berry, UND's head hockey coach.
"Cooper was excited when he found out that I was coming up to UND to play volleyball," Ellett said. "All of the cousins are close, so it was nice knowing I'd have family literally around the corner. It's also nice having someone in the family who is going through the same thing, playing a D-I college sport."
Being able to do it for the same school at the same time is something Ellett's father and aunt, Kelley (Moore's mother), narrowly missed. They both went to Bowling Green — Dave to play hockey and Kelley to play volleyball — but they missed each other by one year.
Improved defensive play
After more than a month of captain practices and a week of team practices, Ellett feels like the transition is going well.
"It's actually been a lot more smooth than I thought it would be," she said. "The girls and the coaching staff have been absolutely amazing with that. The first three or four weeks I was here, we were just doing captain practices. Sometimes, I'd do something and I'd hear, 'Oh my God, you're such a beach volleyball player.' I'd ask them what I did and they've been really good about communicating what I need to fix and work on, and what I'm doing well."
Ellett said playing beach volleyball has turned her into a better defensive player.
"When I played indoor (previously), I wasn't a very good defensive player," Ellett said. "I was more of an offensive player. But in beach, you have to be more all around. There are only two of you on the court. I've noticed now that I'm more of a defensive player and less of an offensive player."
Ellett's transition from beach to indoor is unique.
Volleyball players do make the move, but it's usually the other way around — starting with indoor and going to beach.
"I know a bunch who have gone to college for indoor and finished in beach," Ellett said. "I personally don't know anyone recently, who is close to me, who has done the beach-to-indoor switch. It's a new thing in the group of people who I know playing volleyball."
UND volleyball at-a-glance
Coach: Jeremiah Tiffin (third season).
2020 record: 2-16 (2-14 Summit League).
Season opener: Saturday, Aug. 21 vs. Bemidji State.
Key returners: Sr. Darian Chwialkowski (5.35 digs per set), sr. Lexi Ahrens (2.46 kills per set), jr. Peyton Sewell (5.5 assists per set), sr. Madi Hart (2.5 digs per set), soph. Alexa Albinson (1.4 kills per set), soph. Elizabeth Norris (2.85 assists per set).