Former Eastview volleyball standout Alicia Nelson, who now plays volleyball at Stony Brook University in New York, recently was the seventh Stony Brook player to surpass 1,000 kills in her college volleyball career.
"I had no idea that I was going to reach 1,000 when I did," Nelson said.
The 6-foot-1 college senior also was named the America East Player of the Week for the third time during October.
Nelson, who is majoring in digital arts and business and minoring in journalism, leads the America East Conference in kills, points per set and service aces this season.
Stony Brook head coach Deborah Matejka-DesLauriers is one of Nelson’s biggest boosters.
“She is now in contention for America East Player of the Year,” said Matejka-DesLauriers. “She was just developed into a great, dynamic leader, both on and off-the-court. ... I just can’t say enough about her and her attitude and work ethic and her drive to be the best that she can be.”
Nelson also is the president of the student-athlete advisery committee at Stony Brook, and helped write a grant to get $30,000 from the NCAA to promote drug and alcohol education on campus. She also works in the Dean of Students' office.
Patch caught up with Nelson to learn more about her college career for the Seawolves, her busy off-court schedule and memories of her time at Eastview.
Apple Valley Patch: I’ll start out with the most important question. What exactly is a Seawolf?
Alicia Nelson: I am supposed to answer 'I’m a Seawolf.' That is kind of a school thing. It is a mythological creature that brings luck to all who encounter it. It is an old fisherman story. Our school got so many questions about what was a Seawolf that we came up with this new thing, “I’m a Seawolf.” We all wear red shirts that say that, so when people ask that, we are supposed to scream back “I’m a Seawolf.”
Apple Valley Patch: How did you end up at Stony Brook?
Nelson: I was recruited by various schools out of high schools from different areas around the country. I just thought that I wanted to be in the East Coast. I entertained other options, but I came out here on a family vacation one time to New York City and Boston and grew to love the area. I really want to experience a new place, something different than Apple Valley, Minnesota, so I figured what is a different place than Long Island, New York. ... I had a great recruiting visit. The coaches seemed to have a really great philosophy. They are really down-to-earth. It was really a family deal at Stony Brook, which I really liked since I was going so far away from home. The academics, on top of that, also interested me.
Apple Valley Patch: You recently went over 1,000 kills. Where does that rank in school history and how proud are you of that accomplishment?
Nelson: I believe that I am the seventh player to reach 1,000 kills. I was really honored and it was pretty funny, that I had no clue that I was even close to 1,000. I knew that I was up in the upper hundreds, but I had no idea that I was going to reach 1,000 when I did. It came as a real surprise to me, which was pretty fun. My parents were there. I am just really honored and I look back at some of the other hitters who have reached that and it is pretty neat to be ranked among those people and I was surprised and happy.
Apple Valley Patch: Did it make even more special knowing that your parents were there?
Nelson: Absolutely. It was so sweet. My mom knew and she was so sweet about it. She kept it a secret from me and tried to keep me from looking at my stats and distracted me from that the whole week before that. ... She came running up to me after the game and gave me a hug and her eyes were watering. She has always cheered for me in sports and she has never gotten that emotional about it, but she was tearing up and it was so sweet and she told me that I got 1,000 kills and I started crying and it was big mushy lovefest.
Apple Valley Patch: Are they able to get to many of your matches since the distance is significant?
Nelson: Yes, it is, actually. They have been really incredible this year. They have made it out five times so far this year to come out and watch me in tournaments. ... I love having them here and supporting me. My sister, who lives in New York City, comes out to watch me play every game she can, so my family has been able to come to a lot of my games this year and that has had a huge impact on how special this last year has been for me. I just love to look into the stands when I am playing and see them. Whether I am struggling or doing well, I like sharing those moments with them.
Apple Valley Patch: I’m sure that you would love to make the NCAA tournament. What are some of the goals that you have for the rest of the year?
Nelson: My individual goals are to have a double-double (over ten kills and ten digs) in each game. Other than that, it is mostly team goals. At this point, individual goals help a team, but ultimately, we need to figure out how to work together and we are all working for the same goals, which is to win conference. I think that is everyone’s primary focus.
Apple Valley Patch: When you look back at your time at Eastview, what stands out as some of the highlights?
Nelson: I was homeschooled, so I felt really pleased that I was able to be a part of Eastview athletics. ... The thing that stands out for me when I started play volleyball in the ninth grade. I was competitive gymnast for eight years and I grew too tall for the gymnastics equipment. I quit that and started playing volleyball. My mom told me that I needed to start doing a “tall girl” sport, something that would reward me for being tall. She said to just try out for the volleyball team. I remember (head coach) Becky Egan looking at me and wondering ‘who this girl is and she has no idea of how many people belong on the court.’ It was pretty funny. I was the only girl who had never played volleyball. Didn’t know how to pass. Nothing. Egan saw something in me and trained me and I owe everything I know to her. When I think about high school, I think about that first day of the summer camp and thinking that I am over my head and what am I doing here and I don’t belong here. Egan pulled me aside and told me that she was going to work with me and that she saw something. I think about how easily my life would have been changed, if she hadn’t given me that opportunity.
Apple Valley Patch: You never could have imagined where you are right now back then, obviously.
Nelson: No way. Not at all. No clue. It was just something to stay active and pass the time. Quickly that year, it turned into something that I just love. Once I understood it and got a little more comfortable, I absolutely fell in love with it. The following year, I made varsity and I kept thinking that I was over my head each year that I had more opportunities and I kept thinking that I didn’t belong there and questioning what the coaches saw in me and why they gave me these chances and now, however many years later, it just clicks and I get it. I am so grateful that they gave me those chances.
Apple Valley Patch: You also played for the Northern Lights club program, which is one of the premier programs in Minnesota. How much do you think that helped you?
Nelson: It is one of the top programs in the country. Again, I stumbled upon that, too. I was lucky that it was in Burnsville, just right down the road, close to where I lived. I tried out for that team and was on the 16s my first year. The training there is such a high quality. ... It made me appreciate all the different roles that volleyball players have. There are 12 girls on a team and only six people can be on the court and most of the time, there are more than 12 girls, so the majority of girls don’t get to play. That year really taught me what it means to be the support system for the girls on the court and it gave me perspective.
Apple Valley Patch: Have you thought much about what you would like to do after college?
Nelson: Some things that I am interested in are athletic communications. Something like ESPN. I think that would be a pretty neat place to work. I think that I would really like to stay involved in athletics for a career, but I am not sure how to incorporate that. I am really interested in journalism. I added my journalism minor because I had to redshirt for a year, so I needed more credits and that ended up being my favorite. I learned a lot about Patch. I don’t know what I want to do, but something in communications, definitely, staying in the athletic world.
Apple Valley Patch: Are you going to stay in the east coast or would you come back to Minnesota?
Nelson: I have thought about that a lot. Minnesota is always going to be my home. I love it there, although I appreciate going to New York and seeing new things. That has given me perspective and also made me realize how much I love Minnesota and “Minnesota nice.” I’m not sure, but I think eventually I would like to end up back in Minnesota, but at this point, my options are open and I am willing to go wherever the opportunities are.