Before Denene (Jacovetta) Shivley became a technology teacher at Southeast Elementary School in Brighton, she was a self-admitted tomboy.
“I was never into dolls,” she said. “My grandmother tried to get me to like dolls and dresses. I just didn’t. I did what I could to compete, if it was tennis, shooting baskets, setting volleyballs on the roof. If I could have played flag football, I would have done that. I love to compete.”
That self-admitted tomboy is heading for the Regis University athletic hall of fame. The ceremony is scheduled for, Sept. 24.
“I read the email three times. I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked,” she said. “I knew someone on the team had been inducted several years ago. But I never felt what I did qualified as the upper echelon.”
“My aunt, Denene, is truly the best of the best,” said her nephew, Brady Jacovetta, former quarterback at Brighton High School. “She is so dedicated and has such raw talent, it's hard to describe her abilities playing volleyball. Even after 35-plus years later, when I finally reached high-school sports, her legacy is still well-known, and I was always asked if I was related to Denene.”
Part of the reason Shivley thought she’d never make a hall of fame was that there was less reliance on statistics than is the case today. She still holds the school record for total points (2,070.5), as well as points (847.5) and kills (704) in a single season (1984), according to a statement. She is second in total kills (1,688) and fourth in career digs (1,641).
“Back then, no one paid attention. We didn’t dwell on that,” Shivley said. “I saw the stats. I saw the things I did are still in the record books. I was a second-team, All-American. That’s a big deal.
“And I was shocked.”
Shivley talked to the school’s assistant athletic director who sent her the hall-of-fame-notification email.
“He said he was going through the record books and told me, ‘Your name keeps coming up every time I turned the page,’” Shivley said. “He thought I should be in.”
Shivley graduated from Brighton High School in 1983. She played volleyball, basketball and ran track. She accepted a scholarship to Regis.
“I was surprised to get a full ride, and it turned out great,” she said. “It was a surprise to get a scholarship. In those days, it wasn’t as big a deal as now. I loved my time at Regis. It was a small campus. I lived on campus the first year and off campus the next three.”
Volleyball allowed Shivley to meet friends and to do a certain amount of traveling.
“I met some great friends. We traveled to Alaska to play. They were in our league at the time,” Shivley said. “We played at the Air Force. It was quite a trip.”
Regis was an NCAA Division II school at the time. She played for three coaches in four years. The first coach lasted a year.
The second coach, Brad Sanden, stayed two years and, in Shivley’s view, “turned the program around.”
“When Brad came in, he changed the sense of volleyball for me,” she said. “In those days, we had two people who received the ball and passed the ball. It was a different style of play, then. He changed the way I played the game.”
Shivley had a vertical jump of 40 inches, a height that improved thanks to Sanden’s coaching.
"Brad put us in a training program to increase our vertical jump,” she said. “I increased it by two inches. He stressed wanting everyone to be better. I can’t tell you how much we improved."
Her last coach, Frank Lavrisha, just retired from Regis.
“He had a different personality, but he didn’t come in and change everything,” Shivley said. “We did great. We could serve from one spot on the floor. We couldn’t serve where we wanted. I was an outside hitter at 5 feet 3 inches. Now, 6-footers are tall. But not then. My vertical jump? That helped me a lot, why I was successful.”
Originally, Shivley wanted to be a journalist.
“I’m not sure why I didn’t follow that,” she said. “But when I was in high school and older, I thought accounting and finance would be what I would enjoy doing.”
Shivley doesn’t play anymore. But she still enjoys watching her sport whenever possible.
“It taught me that I am a competitor, and playing sports taught me a lot about time management,” Shivley said. “The older I’ve gotten, it’s taught me about patience. The first year I played (in college), we did OK. But I remember, after the second year, telling my mother, ‘This is how it’s supposed to be. That’s not to say high school was bad. But in college, it was very cohesive. It was one of the best times of my life. I had so much fun.”
"When I was playing sports growing up, I always strived to be the best. And to do that you have to look up to and learn from the best,” Brady Jacovetta said. “Even though I played football and looked up to the best QB's in the game, I always looked up you, aunt Denene, for inspiration and hoped to be able to leave behind a legacy like hers.
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