Nielson’s killer net play lifts Gonzaga [Volleyball]
Given a chance to shine at net for the first time, Gonzaga University freshman Deanna Nielson of Anchorage admitted to feeling a bit anxious.
She didn’t show it.
Nielson blossomed under the bright lights and delivered a wonderful weekend performance at the ASU Sheraton Invitational in Tempe, Ariz.
The 6-foot setter helped Gonzaga win three of four matches, playing in all 17 games and delivering the match of her life against Villanova on Friday.
“This weekend was so much fun,” Nielson told me. “Four matches in two days was a challenge, but my team is so driven and willing that accepting that challenge was exciting for us.”
It was especially thrilling for the Alaska player.
Nielson, of Dimond High fame, amassed 12 kills on 63 attempts to go along with 21 digs, 10 block assists, 3 solo blocks and 4 assists.
“I personally felt great going into the games this weekend, however, I still had some slight nerves because these were my first games seeing the front row and becoming an offensive tool. Previously I had been playing back row defense,” she said.
“I was recruited as a setter, but my position varies according to our needs. My coaches continually remind me that I am their utility player and that I have to be ready to play anywhere. As of late, I have been playing right side and I think that will be my position for the duration of the season.”
Nielson was at her best against Villanova when she registered career highs in kills , digs  and solo blocks .
Even better, Gonzaga won in five games.
Gonzaga’s only loss in the two-day tournament was a four-game setback to host Arizona State in the championship match.
The weekend experience was kind an eye opener for Nielson, who roamed the nets in the Cook Inlet Conference just two years ago.
“Playing at the D1 level is no walk in the park,” she said. “It takes extreme dedication and drive to excel at such a high level. I have found that playing this level means you have to pay attention to details more than ever because the smallest mistake can mess up your entire game plan.”