For an athlete who also enjoys school, last Saturday night was a great night for some history.
Senior standout Meredith Nelson made history Saturday in Illinois, becoming just the 18th volleyball player in Minnesota history to reach the 1,000-kill mark.
A middle blocker, Nelson said she was excited to make such an achievement.
“I feel like 1,000 kills is a huge honor and it’s something that I’m happy about,” she said. “But I also realize that it’s due in part to my teammates and the support I’ve received from them.”
Nelson has accomplished much more in her college career than what she’s done on the court, becoming a role model to some of her teammates.
Junior middle blocker Jessie Jones called Nelson a mentor.
“Meredith has been an influence on me not only on the court, but in life as well,” she said. “She just has it together, whether it’s school, social life or volleyball. She’s a coach’s dream player.”
Nelson laughed off the comment, but, from the sound of it, Jones’ description was accurate.
Besides taking the needed time to excel in volleyball at the University over the past four years, Nelson managed to earn a 4.0 grade point average in fall 2005.
The applied economics major also found time to add a marketing focus and a minor in management, and plans to finish in four years.
“Like any other student-athlete, academics play an
important role in my life,” Nelson said. “I place a lot of emphasis on that.”
Nelson learned her juggling act in high school, as she balanced a variety of activities early on. Playing volleyball, basketball and softball, Nelson also joined a club volleyball team in winter, and drove to practices an hour away after daily basketball practice.
And if that wasn’t enough, Nelson worked her way up to vice president of the student council, editor of the yearbook, a participant in marching band and concert band, played an active role in a peer help organization, and even went out for knowledge bowl. She also found the time to keep her grades up in school.
But Nelson said she didn’t find this to be a problem.
“I’ve always just been a busy person. I’ve always wanted to be involved,” she said. “It eventually just comes to you and you don’t even notice that much.”
The volleyball team has noticed. Sophomore outside hitter Kyla Roehrig said she has learned a lot from the senior’s presence.
“She’s kind of like a big sister to me,” she said. “She’s helped me not only in volleyball, but in school as well. Between her grades and her (volleyball) achievements, you can tell she’s got her schedule set the right way.”
It appears as if the entire team looks up to Nelson, and, according to the senior, it’s not just a one-way street. Nelson described her idea of relaxing as just spending time with her teammates, which in Nelson’s conversation was synonymous with the word friends.
“People would think that you’d get sick of it after being with them all the time at practice and on the court,” she said. “But I just don’t. I love my team.”
As successful as Nelson has been, it would be easy to take all the credit. Instead, she modestly spreads it around, thanking her parents, coaches and mentors.
“I think, originally, I have to credit my parents, they’re the ones who got me involved in volleyball,” she said. “They also taught me my work ethic.”
She continued by crediting her mentor, former middle blocker Jessica Byrnes, for teaching her how to give everything she has to help the team.
Byrnes was the last player to reach 1,000 career kills for the Gophers and likely will be passed by Nelson at some point this season.
To reach 1,000 kills is quite a goal in itself, but it’s not something Nelson is after.
“I just want to continue to contribute, I don’t have any numbers in mind,” she said. “I want to be able to look back at the end of the year, and say I’ve given everything I had to the team.”