Nielson on her way to Gonzaga (Volleyball)

April 25, 2011

For a player who makes a living setting up other players, Deanna Nielson of Anchorage is using volleyball to set her up her future.

The all-star setter will take her all-court game to Gonzaga University, where she will enroll in the school’s prestigious science program.

“I’m thinking of either doing environmental science or engineering,” she told me. “I always wanted to play in college but I knew the big picture is that your education comes first. Division I was a great opportunity … it’s like a dream come true.”

Nielson, of Dimond High fame, was the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior. She helped the Lynx win three Class 4A state volleyball titles.

“I see Deanna just taking off in college,” Dimond coach Kim Lauwers told me. “It won’t be easy, but she is ready.”

As an athletic 6-footer, Nielson is a coach’s dream and an opponent’s nightmare at the setter position because she can pounce on free balls at the net.

“You can push the ball down and end up with a few kills,” said Nielson, who also excels and tips and dumps.

Still, her bread and butter is setting.

But if you think spreading the ball around is about keeping teammates happy, you’d be wrong like me.

A successful setter reacts to the defense and feeds the hot hand.

“It’s about giving the ball to whoever you think is going to score points,” Nielson said.