From Oahu to Kosovo: Former Osprey Goes Pro

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024, Noelani Beard made Ospreys Athletics history by becoming the first athlete in the program’s history to sign a professional contract. A storied start to her collegiate career led Noelani to Shaw University in North Carolina, becoming the first NCAA transfer in Rogue history. At Shaw, she built upon her success before graduating with honors and returning for her master’s degree and playing out her final season of eligibility and winning the CIAA championship. That would lead to the ultimate athlete opportunity: a professional contract. Noelani then went to Europe to play for Fer Volleyball in Kosovo. 

An image of former RCC volleyball player Noelani Beard wrapped in the Kosovo flag.

In the spring of 2018, there were plans to launch women’s volleyball at Rogue Community College. Head Coach Christine Nelson was hired in the spring of 2019 and the first match was played in the fall. One of the talented athletes in the initial group of Ospreys volleyball players was 17-year-old Noelani Beard from Oahu. She gave everything she had for a first-year program and helped lead that team to a South Region Championship and a fifth-place finish. Times were tough for everyone during the pandemic, but Noelani persisted and returned to the program for a second season and helped the team clinch back-to-back South Region Championships while earning First Team All-Region.

In fall 2021, Noelani transferred to Shaw University in North Carolina. At Shaw, she took the foundation she built at RCC and established her dominance on the court, earning back-to-back All-Conference Honors, as well as All-Tournament Team and CIAA Offensive Player of the Year before graduating with honors. But Noelani had unfinished business and returned to Shaw for a master’s program that allowed her to play out the final year of her college career. Her team clinched the CIAA Championship and went to the national tournament. She also earned the All-Conference title again.

In January 2024, a life-changing opportunity arrived when Noelani was offered a spot at the Fer Volleyball Club in Ferizaj, Kosovo. It was a chance to compete abroad and continue to grow as an athlete as she played against some of the best. Noelani still plans to complete her master’s degree and pursue a career in law, but for now, she wants to enjoy the sport she loves and take advantage of an opportunity few receive.

Noelani helped carve out a historic path for the Ospreys and helped to launch a program that never looked back. She also became the first RCC athlete in any sport to transfer to the NCAA. Her decision to turn pro adds another notch to her belt as she becomes the first professional athlete to come out of Ospreys Athletics at Rogue Community College. An amazing story gets even better and has us waiting to find out what is coming in the next chapter. For now, we celebrate!

— Darren VanLehn, Athletic Director