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Preslie Anderson is finally a sun devil

Taylyn Hadley Avatar
October 20, 2023

Growing up, Preslie Anderson carried the aspiration of becoming a Sun Devil her entire childhood.

With her dad, Mike Anderson being a back-to-back All-American wrestler for Arizona State from 1988-1992, she was surrounded by maroon and gold her entire life. 

“We joke on my staff that even though I went to Cal and Baylor, I think my passion runs most deep for ASU,” Preslie said. “Just because, you know, I grew up being a little fan in the stands at ASU volleyball games (and) ASU wrestling matches.”

After working her way through over three different collegiate volleyball programs, two in which she played for and one where she assisted, she never thought in her wildest dreams she would end up back home as a Sun Devil. 

Everything shifted in late 2022 when first year head coach JJ Van Niel was announced as the new ASU volleyball coach, presenting Preslie with a newfound opportunity.

After being approached by numerous people regarding Preslie’s potential, Van Niel was all in and made her his first hire and the official assistant coach of Sun Devil volleyball.

“I had never been an assistant before,” Preslie said. “So, that’s a risk he was taking, but I think I sold myself well over the span of our phone calls and after more conversations with him and getting to know him and him getting to know me, it just seemed like this was really going to end up working out.”

Preslie felt a sense of familiarity being a part of the ASU family. It was a seamless fit, much like being in the comfort of her own home.

Bleeding maroon and gold

Born and raised in Chandler, Preslie attended Hamilton High School where she was named a three time All-American and helped lead her team to back-to-back state championship appearances.

A four-year varsity letter player, Preslie averaged 3.5 kills and 1.2 digs per set with a 50% successful kill rate over her four years with the Huskies. 

As a senior at middle blocker, Preslie won the 2016 Max Preps Player of the Year award after she led her team in kills per game, total kills and hitting percentage.  

Preslie was obviously a skilled player with an agenda to play at the next level.

With a distance of less than 30 minutes from Tempe, she and her family attended countless ASU events with her family after both her mom and dad graduated from the university. 

The Anderson family bled maroon and gold.

Mike was eager for one of his five children to attend his alma mater and with Preslie being the middle child with a budding volleyball career, he thought that she would be the one. 

Little did he know that he would have to wait just a little longer for one of his kids to be a member of program. It would come, he just had to be a little more patient.  

For Preslie, being the middle child meant something different to her. She wanted to explore and venture on her own for once after being surrounded by two older siblings and two younger ones. 

Tempe was a little too close to home for her to do that. 

“I am very independent,” Preslie said. “I think I knew I wanted to get an out of state experience and then I wanted to find a place where I knew I could get a good degree because at the end of the day, my dad raised me that volleyball will go away but the degree won’t.” 

Preslie made it very clear that she is a family-oriented person who makes it a priority to be present among family events and milestones.

She needed a happy medium – distance but independence.

With that in mind, she was familiar with the Pac-12 and knew that it was a program that she wanted to be a part of.

So, she chose the University of California.

Bears and Golden Bears

After making the move to Los Angeles to become a Golden Bear, Preslie found instant success with the team.

Standing at 6-foot-2 as a freshman, she was one of only four players to play in all 31 matches in 2017. Preslie finished her season with 191 points, 145 kills and led her team in blocks with 75.

At the beginning of her sophomore season with Cal, Preslie found her way into the starting lineup and landed herself on the honorable mention list for the All-Pac-12 team.

During her junior year and final season as a Golden Bear, Preslie led her team once again in blocks with 98 and was named to the All-Pac-12 team after leading the conference in hitting average with 40%. 

In 2020, Preslie transferred out of the Pac-12 and into the Big 12 where she played for Baylor as a senior graduate transfer. 

This time for the Bears minus the Golden, the senior appeared in just 10 games for the program while averaging 1.42 points per set and finishing with 28 kills and 42 blocks.

Using her extra year of availability due to the pandemic, Preslie played in her fifth season with Baylor in 2021, playing in 23 games, starting in 14 and only missing five games that season. 

She finished her final year with 95.5 points, 68 kills and 49 blocks along with back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances where the Bears advanced to the Sweet 16 in two straight seasons.

Following the conclusion of her collegiate volleyball career and her graduation from Baylor, Preslie embarked on her path to becoming a coach in the sport.

With two degrees under her belt, two vastly different program experiences and the rare occurrence of gaining a new head coach every year that Preslie was a player at both Cal and Baylor, she attributes the ever-changing dynamics to her coaching style.

“I really feel like that’s helped me in my coaching because I’ve gotten to experience so many different coaching styles, so many different philosophies and systems,” Preslie said. “I’ve had to learn on really quickly and kind of buy in really fast, so it doesn’t take long for me to fully engage into the new.” 

As Preslie started to build her coaching style as a volunteer assistant at both TCU and ASU, she did not yet know it, but she was closer than ever to being offered her first official coaching position at a Division 1 college.

What Preslie had envisioned as her dream job growing up became her very first job offer right out of college.

“I’m willing to die an assistant here”

Through connections at TCU and USC, including a friendship with USC’s head coach Brad Keller who Van Niel assisted under, Preslie’s name was thrown out a few times to the bare-boned coaching staff at ASU.

With luck and through even more hard work, Preslie was Van Niels first addition hired to the new-looking Sun Devil coaching staff.

“At that point, I’m actually in Arizona for New Years, about to head back to Texas because I’m like, ‘Alright, well I gotta go back to TCU practice and keep looking for jobs,’” Preslie said. “(Van Niel is) like, ‘How soon can you get here,’ and I’m like, ‘I’ll literally go back to Texas right now, pack up my stuff and I’ll be back here in a week.’”

“Perfect,” Van Niel responded. 

Luckily for Preslie, she was staying with her parents for the holiday, making the hire that much sweeter as she was able to tell her parents the good news in-person. 

One of Mike’s kids was finally going to be a Sun Devil. The waiting was over.

“My dad was in his garage, he was playing his guitar (and) watching football or something,” Preslie said. “I go out there after me and JJ had ended the phone call and I’m like, ‘Dad, I’m going to be the assistant at ASU.’ He just said, ‘What,’ and then just immediately started crying.”

As mentioned, Mike was a collegiate wrestler. He is big, nearly 6-foot-8 and walks around looking like the toughest of guys on the surface. 

Although he does not appear like it, Preslie assures that he is a big teddy bear and in that moment, his teddy bear was unleashed. 

“It seemed like it was the proudest he’s ever been of me,” Preslie said. “That was a really special moment because I know how meaningful it is to finally have one of his kids end up as a Sun Devil.”

Along with Preslie’s dad, her mom also attended ASU. She was just as excited upon hearing the news, jumping up and down and screaming in elation.

Preslie always knew how extreme her support system was, but it was at that moment, she realized that her parents would forever hold a special place as her biggest fans. 

Given her family’s history as Sun Devil supporters, securing a dream job immediately after college, a role meant for the long term, is highly unusual. Most people typically start in entry-level positions and keep searching for the next opportunity.

This is certainly not the case for Preslie.

“I managed to end up at honestly my dream spot,” Preslie said. “It doesn’t get better than being around family and friends at a place I’ve loved and I’m so familiar with. I’m really blessed to be here at ASU for sure.”

While Preslie can see herself holding a head coach position sometime down the road, like, really far down the road, she has no desire to step away from her position on the Sun Devil coaching staff. 

She is fully dedicated to the program that she grew up enamored with and is focused on being the best assistant she can.

“I tell JJ, I’m willing to die an assistant here because I am really just so happy,” Preslie said. “Like I said, just being home, it’s just really hard to beat that.”

During her time examining her past programs and building her ideal coaching style, Preslie has made it a priority to build culture among the players and instill pride for the name that is on the front of their jerseys.

“Culture wins,” Preslie said.

Doubling up as a coach and a peer

At just 24-years-old, Preslie is close enough in age to the players in the program to understand what they are going through, as well as being able to connect with them and their troubles as a former student-athlete.

“I’m really familiar with the experiences that they’ve gone through and I feel like I do a good job of kind of sharing that with them (and) guiding them when they need it,” Preslie said. “(I’m) just trying to pour into them and be the coach that I would have wanted as a player. That’s kind of what I think about on a daily basis.”

It is apparent that the players feel a comfort in having Preslie around in observing player’s interactions with the assistant coach. 

She presents herself as a friend, even a teammate, but it’s clear that all the players hold deep respect for her and are eager to absorb the wealth of knowledge she brings to the program.

This is largely because everything Preslie does is driven by a selfless purpose. Her actions are aimed at enhancing the ASU program and the players within it.

When the program succeeds, Preslie succeeds.

“Being able to kind of take my knowledge and help the girls on my team grow their game has always been fulfilling for me,” Preslie said. “It’s cool to see when that light bulb switch goes off and they’re like ‘Oh, I finally get it now’ and then to see that applied in games and then eventually get wins from that, it’s really special.”

Preslie approaches coaching with a player-first mentality. She takes the time to understand each individual and makes it clear that she genuinely cares about their individual experiences and well-being.

As a former player, she understands the significance of a coach who has experienced similar challenges and can establish a personal connection with the players, making the coach and player relationship that much more special.

“When you’re a college athlete, it takes up so much of your time,” Preslie said. “I just think about (how) if they’re gonna spend so much into us, if they’re gonna pour so much into us as players, I want to give them that same respect and then some.” 

It’s certainly beneficial that Preslie not only has a profound concern for her players but also a deep devotion to the Sun Devil program in its entirety.

She is proud to be a Sun Devil, she is proud that her family is composed of Sun Devils and she wants the players to be proud alumni of the program as well. 

“Now to be affiliated and have my hands in turning this program around and getting us back on the map… I really just feel like this is a special place, a special school,” Preslie said. 

With Preslie serving as an assistant for the program during its successful 2023 season and showing no intentions of departing, it’s not just the team’s performance on the court that will flourish. Thanks to her unwavering commitment to the school that she grew up idolizing, success will be bound to stay long after.

“I’m young and I’m hungry and I obviously want to win and I want to see this program that I’ve loved for so long succeed,” Preslie said. “At the end of the day, I want to see these girls walk away, proud to be ASU alumni.”

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