BOZEMAN – Fridays are usually reserved for football, which makes this story on Central setter Devin Nielsen appropriate.
Watch the senior play, and you’ll quickly realize she’s the best quarterback here.
“I can’t even begin to put it into words,” smiled Central coach Kylie Reitz. “I just can’t imagine her not setting our team. I told her last night that she does something every game that amazes me.”
Nielsen does it all for the Rams. In just six sets yesterday, she compiled eight aces, 22 digs, and 58 assists – to spots all over the floor.
“It’s so much fun because I can put the ball wherever I want and I know a hitter is going to put it down and get the kill and we all get so excited,” said Neilsen.
“She’s amazing,” offered Rams outside hitter Bailey Kufeld. “It’s so nice to have setter where any pass, she’s able to get the ball to all three of our hitters.”
“It doesn’t take anybody out of the equation so it just makes our offense that much more unpredictable,” Reitz said.
Nielsen joined the Rams midway through last season, so this is the first full year the offense has had her – and you can see the difference.
“She got so much better this off-season because she’s a competitive kid,” said Reitz. “She wanted to better at these things even though she was great last year.”
Do Neilsen feel like a better player this year compared to last?
“Yeah, a lot. I just feel like I’ve matured and I’ve grown smarter with the ball.”
The Rams renew a rivalry with Belgrade that’s been very one-sided lately. Central beat the Panthers in last year’s third place game here, and has won all four meetings this year.
The most highly anticipated semi is on the AA court where undefeated Senior takes on defending champ Missoula Sentinel, the last team to beat the Broncs – in laat year’s semifinal and championship matches.
“We’ve thought about it a lot,” admitted outside hitter Raegan Steiner. “We know we didn’t play our very best last year – we could have done better.”
Senior did back in September in the Great Falls invite championship – but Sentinel wasn’t at full strength, so the Broncs are taking it with a grain of a salt.
“We know that we won, but it’s in the past, and it’s just something to build on and learn from,” said Senior outside hitter Kelsey Sargent.
“We know they’re going to be tougher this time, but we’re going to be tougher too,” added Steiner. “We worked every day this year to continue getting better and work harder and be tougher, because we knew they were too.”
It’s hard to imagine Huntley Project getting much better.
This is the 12th straight year the Red Devils are playing in the Friday night semi, but they haven’t won it since 20-13. So how is this team different?
“We just have a lot more girls that are willing to fight,” said Red Devils middle hitter Mollee Krum. “We are an athletic team and I’m really excited to see the outcome of this weekend.”