When your team essentially consists of three of the best players in the nation and then 10 freshmen, you have to do what you have to do to get the best players on the court.

But moving your all-American libero to outside hitter?

“I’m crazy like that,” Oregon volleyball coach Matt Ulmer said with a smile.

When the No. 11 Ducks open the season at 7 p.m. Friday against UC Irvine in the Oregon Classic tournament at Matthew Knight Arena, they’ll look noticeably different than the team that went 23-11 in 2018 and was one win away from reaching the Final Four.

One familiar face, however, will be sophomore Brooke Nuneviller. She’ll just be playing a different position.

Nuneviller has been moved from libero, where she excelled as a freshman in 2018, to the front of the net where she joins fellow returning all-Americans in senior middle blocker Ronika Stone and senior right-side hitter Willow Johnson.

Though an unusual position change, it’s not unprecedented, at least not for Nuneviller.

The 5-foot-11 native of Chandler, Ariz., has floated between the two positions for much of her career. She was a standout outside hitter for her high school and club teams, then played libero for the U.S. Women’s Junior National team, including this past July during the U20 World Championship tournament in Mexico.

Ulmer said Nuneviller was the No. 2-ranked libero nationally in the 2018 recruiting class, but he brought her to Oregon to be an outside hitter.

However, the Ducks had Johnson, star senior Lindsey Vander Weide and transfer Taylor Borup at outside hitter last season, so they played Nuneviller at libero to get her undeniable volleyball talent on the floor.

It’s a different story this season, as Vander Weide is gone, Borup is recovering from offseason reconstructive ankle surgery, once-promising outside hitter Jolie Rasmussen has transferred to Hawaii after missing 2018 with an injury, and freshman Georgia Murphy, the top-ranked libero in the 2019 recruiting class, is on the roster and ready to roll.

“She just has the full game,” Ulmer said of Nuneviller. “She’s just a really unique talent. Her energy and what she brings is unparalleled. She’s such a fighter and fearless competitor. We really need her out there.”

Still, moving Nuneviller is a bold move, considering her single-season statistical performance in 2018 was second to only one other libero in Oregon history.

Her 580 digs were the third most all-time by a Duck and the most since Katie Swoboda set the school record with 599 in 2008. Swoboda also had 586 in 2007.

Nuneviller’s 4.92 digs per set were also the fourth-best total in Oregon history with Swoboda holding the top three positions with 5.33 in 2007, 5.28 in 2006 and 5.03 in 2008.

Nuneviller has embraced the position change, which she’s been working on since last spring and also during the Ducks’ 11-day, six-match exhibition trip to Europe in June.

“It was a pretty easy transition,” Nuneviller said. “It was hard to get back into jumping because I hadn’t done that for so long, but it was something I was used to.

“I think every team needs someone to bring positive energy and to get us out of tight situations and I think that’s something I’ve been pretty good at. That’s something I want to take to another level.”

Two of her returning teammates praised her ability to make the transition.

“She’s really crafty,” Stone said. “She’s really good at using her vision, and her shot selection is one of the best on the team.”

“In my point of view I think she’s doing great,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to watch her play. I’m excited to see what she can do for us on the outside.”

With those three on the floor and the timetable for Borup’s return still unknown, every other player who gets in for the Ducks will be a freshman.

Granted, the Ducks have some pretty talented and credentialed rookies, including a pair of players who redshirted last season in 5-10 setter Kylie Robinson and 6-4 middle blocker Karson Bacon.

Robinson was the top-rated recruit in Oregon history when she was ranked No. 8 overall in her class by PrepVolleyball.com. Bacon was 11th on that list, making her the Ducks’ third-highest ranked recruit after Stone, who was ranked 10th in 2016.

Besides Murphy, newcomers this fall include 6-3 outside hitter Taylor Williams from Churchill High School, 6-3 middle blocker/right-side hitter Morgan Lewis, 6-5 redshirt freshman middle blocker Abby Hansen who transferred from USC, 6-2 outside hitter Alex Laita, 6-3 outside hitter Jade Sadeiko, setter Elise Ferreira (daughter of former Oregon coach Carl Ferreira) and defensive specialist Bea Wetton from Hillsboro’s Liberty High.

Even with so many newcomers, Oregon was picked to finish third in the Pac-12 in the preseason coaches poll. The Ducks expectations are even higher.

“We are working in a way so that we can be champions,” Ulmer said. “That’s how we talk.”