Sports Person of the Week
Nelson’s a Smash Hit on the Volleyball Court
Senior captain Allie Nelson is racking up the kills as an outside hitter for the Hand girls’ volleyball team this season. (Photo courtesy of Allie Nelson )
Allie Nelson transitioned from a middle hitter to an outside hitter prior to her junior year with the Hand girls’ volleyball squad. Allie had seen a little varsity time during her freshman and sophomore seasons, but things began to change when she started attending the Husky Volleyball Club in Windsor. Allie learned how to play outside hitter and is now starting at that position for the Tigers, while leading the team as one of its senior captains.
“At first, it was more like an experiment,” Allie says. “But I found myself feeling very comfortable on the outside. It has turned me into a better player.”
Allie, who’s averaging 10 kills per match, is one of the biggest reasons why Hand is having such a good season with its record of 10-5. Last year, the Tigers finished with 10 wins and lost in the first round of the Class L State Tournament. Allie feels confident that her club can advance further in the playoffs in 2019.
“We’re definitely a better team this year. We have team unity, and we’re clicking,” says Allie, who leads the team with fellow senior captain Summer Adams. “If our energy is high and we’re positive, the match always seems to go well.”
All of Hand’s losses have come against quality opponents this season. Allie believes that the Tigers have learned some valuable lessons from their defeats that will benefit them going forward.
“I think we took enough away from those losses to treat them like a mental victory,” she says.
Volleyball was never in Allie’s game plan as a youngster growing up in Madison. When she started high school, Allie was encouraged to give the sport a shot with the Tigers—and she immediately liked it.
“I didn’t begin playing until I got to my freshman year,” Allie says. “We didn’t have a middle school team and only played after school. So, when a good friend of mine suggested I try it, I was hooked.”
Allie had previously played lacrosse and basketball. Now, she’s a year-round volleyball player who stays active during the winter by competing for the Husky Club’s 18-and-under regional team.
“It’s given me a chance to play against many of the best players in New England,” says Allie.
Tigers’ Head Coach Ally Johnson took note of just how much Allie had improved between her sophomore and junior seasons. Johnson has high praise for what the senior captain brings to her team in all arenas.
“Allie is an easy kid to coach, because she learns so quickly, is a hard worker, and is a true team player,” Johnson says. “She’s the player that every coach wants on their team.”
Allie’s move from the middle to the outside went pretty smoothly. Of course, it still required a lot of hard work and plenty of practice in order for her to learn how to play the outside hitter position.
“You’re learning to receive the set from a different angle. Positioning is very important,” Allie says. “Once I’ve received the ball, it’s really a matter of reading the defense quickly. The ideal kill is down the four line, but you also have to be able to hit through the middle or cross the ball to the opposite side of the court.”
Allie has also used better footwork to become a more effective blocker, in addition to improving her serve. Allie appreciates all the help that she’s received from Husky coach Dave Strawson at the service line.
“He taught me a jump serve,” says Allie. “Getting the ball to the back row is vital. I’m now able to do that with a lower trajectory on the ball.”
After she graduates from high school, Allie is planning on continuing her volleyball career at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Allie will be following in the footsteps of her older brother Nick, who is a graduate of the school.
“I’m looking forward to an opportunity to play there,” Allie says. “It’s not that far from home, and I’ll be able to get back to spend some time with my mom [Cary] and my dad [Paul].”