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Avoli signs NIL deals with trio of NCAA volleyball stars

Nakos updated headshotby:Pete Nakos07/18/23

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Avoli is making women’s volleyball history.

The sneaker brand designed specifically for girls and women’s volleyball athletes has inked NIL deals with three college stars. Traditionally, volleyball athletes have not been able to wear a shoe designed for the sport and have had to wear basketball sneakers.

That changes with Avoli, which is pronounced pronounced “Ah-Volley.” And now three of the sport’s biggest college stars will be promoting the brand — Nebraska‘s Harper Murray, TexasReilly Heinrich and Virginia‘s Ashley Le have signed on as brand ambassadors.

Officially launched last month, the company plans to offer footwear, apparel and equipment designed for modern women volleyball players. The brand is the creation of Rick Anguilla and Mark Oleson, former footwear and apparel executives who have spent time at adidas, Lululemon, Nike and Under Armour. Avoli’s design efforts are women-led.

While Murray is with an adidas school and Heinrich and Le rep the Nike swoosh at their respective schools, they can all still market Avoli. It’s similar to former Stanford golfer Rose Zhang signing with adidas while competing for a Nike school.

Avoli tabs rising Nebraska volleyball star Harper Murray

The Gatorade National Player of the Year as a high school senior, Murray will only be a freshman this fall. Considered to be the top prospect in the 2023 recruiting class, the outside hitter won gold and was named the best spiker with the U.S. Girls U19 team at the 2022 Pan American Cup. She has picked right up with the Huskers, starring in competition with Nebraska in Brazil. Murray already has upwards of 23,000 social media followers.

Heinrich was the libero on for last season’s national championship Longhorns’ team. A setter at Virginia, Le record 359 assists this past season.

“As fathers of daughters who play the sport, Rick and I couldn’t help but notice that many of these volleyball athletes were wearing men’s basketball shoes on the volleyball court,” Oleson said in a statement. “Not only do men’s basketball shoes lack in meeting the demands of the unique movements of volleyball, but ignore the physiology differences between men and women athletes which can prevent injury and optimize performance. They’re very different games when it comes to the feet, especially since volleyball players in an average game jump and land two to four times more than their basketball counterparts.”

Avoli closed on the first $1 million phase of a $1.5 million investment seed round last month. According to Boardroom, the company plans to release a low-top sneaker first with plans for additional silhouettes and designs in the works. Knee pads and volleyball-specific shorts are also planned in the future.

The sneakers are made specifically for women, unlike several competing volleyball shoes that play off of basketball models.

Nebraska is set to hold at “Volleyball Day in Nebraska” at the end of August, with upwards of 90,000 expected to be in attendance. The event, which will be held at Memorial Stadium, is a perfect spot to launch Harper’s Nebraska career. Even if she can’t rep Avoli sneakers.

“Simply put, these athletes are underserved,” Anguilla said. “Along with our early investors, we firmly believe we are poised for an exceptional opportunity to be the first and only company to cater to the needs of these dedicated athletes.”