IOWA CITY – Late in the second set, Michaela Nelson sat on the bench. It wasn’t your average substitution. She sat on the bench with a clogged nose, in hopes of stopping it from bleeding, and an ice pack pushed against her right cheek.
“Oh, that was not fun,” Nelson said.
But she tried to make the best of it.
As the trainer leaned to her right, Nelson angled around and looked up to the crowd, mimicking the “clicking” action of a camera.
Luckily for her and the rest of the Iowa City High volleyball team, she’ll leave with a much better memory and even sweeter photo.
After she led the Little Hawks to a 3-1 (25-11, 16-25, 25-17, 25-15) over Dubuque Hempstead, Nelson, a few of her teammates and a couple fans captured the big night with a photo at center court. It marked the victory for No. 1 state ranked City High over No. 2 Hempstead. The Little Hawks also managed to hand the Mustangs their first lost in the division as well.
“Michaela, you know she was in the zone for a while,” Iowa City head coach Craig Pitcher said.
All it took was a self-inflicted hit to the nose in an attempt to clear a ball. With Nelson on the sideline, the Little Hawks weren’t able to mount a comeback and lost the second set 25-16.
With the 5-11 junior back to start the third, she wasted no time making her presence felt.
After a kill to make it 1-0, she recorded two blocks that set up a 2-0 Little Hawks lead. The Mustangs closed it to 2-1, but City High never relinquished the lead Nelson built.
“I almost felt like I needed to pick it up, help the team out, especially since I wasn’t able to be in there most of the time because of my bloody nose,” Nelson said. “I just tried hard to pick everyone else up so we could get this game over with.”
Nelson almost single-handedly ended the third set, recording four of City High’s final five points. In all, she tallied 17 kills and 24 total points. The next closest Little Hawk was Abby Saehler with nine. Rachel Rinehart finished with seven.
“I think we had something to prove from over the weekend,” Pitcher said. “We didn’t play real well. We were focused tonight. “
The momentum carried into the fourth and final set. Nelson stabilized the Hawks’ offense in a transition situation, recording a kill that gave them a 11-10 lead. She then took the back line to serve a string of three points to put the game out of reach at 20-12.
It was a performance that would have made most forget about a roughed up nose and more about a career night. For Nelson, she’s still got work to do.
“It was OK, it’ wasn’t my best,” Neslon said. “But I’m still working on getting better.”