Athlete in focus: Grace Nelson


Photo courtesy of Grace Nelson

Sophomore Grace Nelson winds up to score a point for the Huskies

When OPRF and Fenwick face off, in any sport, it can get heated. The OPRF student section usually turns to chanting “God’s on our side”, “say your prayers”, or something that cannot be repeated. However, when the  OPRF and Fenwick girls volleyball teams met on September 23 the chants that  echoed throughout the OPRF fieldhouse were “Grace Nelson” and “She’s a sophomore”. 

Grace Nelson has been around the game of volleyball her whole life. “Volleyball has always been a big part of life. I’m always happy playing volleyball. I can use it to have fun and even sometimes as a coping mechanism, to channel my emotions.” says Nelson.

She started playing at the tender age of 4, inspired by her family’s tradition of being volleyball stars. Her mom played D1 volleyball at the University of Iowa, and her sister played D1 volleyball at the University of Kansas.  Grace herself has had multiple division one colleges reach out to her, including The Ohio State University and the University of Illinois. And she is only a sophomore.

Nelson prides herself in being a very versatile player, a very competitive person, and in her great attitude. She loves playing in the front row, getting the emphatic kills and blocks, but prides herself in being a very versatile player with the ability to succeed at all six positions on the court.

“Her skill set was way above the typical freshman. She’s a power hitter who can vary her shots, and knows when to do so …you can put her anywhere on the court and she will deliver,” said head varsity volleyball coach Kelly Collins.

¨At our tournament a few weeks ago, there was a point where I thought every ball she hit had been a kill, which was probably true. She was truly unstoppable,” said senior Captain Ella Olson.

“I always try to keep a positive attitude. I’m all business, I am really competitive and always want to win, but no matter what I never get down on myself or teammates. Though I’m only a sophomore, I don’t think my age really matters on or off the court. So I always try to lead by example.” says Nelson. 

“Grace is an amazing teammate. She not only has the skills to back it up, but she has a great attitude and is always cheering on her teammates. She is extremely hard working and shows great leadership. She pushes everyone around her to work harder and therefore success follows her everywhere.” says Olson.

Though Nelson is only a sophomore, she feels her age doesn’t really matter and always feels comfortable around her teammates, especially Ella Olson. Olson took Grace under her wing from the very first day of tryouts and is always there for her. Grace has been surrounded by great mentors her whole life, from her mom to her sister to Olson, they have been a big part of her success.

Though Nelson is only a sophomore, her brief career playing volleyball at OPRF has been eventful. Initially, she lost her freshman season to the Covid 19 pandemic, before the IHSA announced the season would be pushed to spring. The season wasn’t the same in the spring and Nelson was excited to get a real season this fall. One of her favorite moments of the season so far was the huskies thrilling win over their crosstown rival the Fenwick Friars. 

“My favorite moment so far was definitely beating Fenwick. It was awesome to have all the fans back in the game, we had a crowded students section that was loud which was huge in such a close game. It was awesome to come out with the win over our rivals in front of all the people that were there.” says Nelson.

The volleyball team begins a run at state on Tuesday October 26th against Morton and they have high hopes for the postseason. Nelson still has two years left of high school before moving on to the next level and is excited to create more special moments on the court for the Huskies.