A finely tuned machine needs a catalyst to ignite the instrument to perform at a peak performance for a split second – or during a long, sustained drive.
Taylor Nelson served that role for Granite Bay High School’s record-setting girls volleyball team this season.
Nelson, a senior setter, set the tone for the greatest season in Sac-Joaquin Section history as the Grizzlies became the first team in state history to go 45-0 and the first area team to win a state title in Division I, making her the clear choice as The Bee’s Player of the Year.
Nelson was seamless with precision passing, knowing exactly where to place the ball for teammates, and she used her strength at the net.
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“The crazy thing is that she sets each player specifically,” Granite Bay coach Tricia Plummer said.
Nelson, a three-time Sierra Foothill League co-MVP and two-time All-Metro pick, also was honored as the Gatorade State Player of the Year and a MaxPreps All-America first-team selection.
“It’s amazing. I’m so glad she is getting this recognition,” said Granite Bay senior Maddy Deters, who was picked for the All-America second team by MaxPreps. “She works so hard. She always has since she was little.”
Nelson and Deters have lived next door to each other since they were 4, and their friendship has bonded through sports, especially volleyball.
They were varsity players as freshmen on a team that did not qualify for the postseason. As they capped their high school careers with the state championship, they embraced each other after being dog-piled by teammates.
“Just having her as a best friend, like a sister, and having her with me my whole life and having this last year with her and our team end in such an amazing way,” Nelson said. “You couldn’t ask for more.”
Separated by just nine days at birth, they have been inseparable since the Deterses moved in next door 14 years ago.
“I know I’m going to look back and tell my kids about this,” Deters said. “I know Taylor and I will remain best friends throughout our lives. Maybe we can move in next to each other when we’re older and have our kids play volleyball together.”
But first there’s college. Nelson didn’t have to think long about her choice of Cal Poly, where her parents excelled in athletics, mom Vera in volleyball, dad Rich in baseball.
“I’ve wanted to go there for as long as I can remember,” Nelson said. “My parents took me there when I was 5. We were all there in all of our Cal Poly gear. Ever since then, I fell in love with the campus and couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
Nelson grew up with volleyball. Her mother is the longtime Sierra College women’s coach.
“I am just excited to see her go through all the things we did,” Vera Nelson said. “College athletics is amazing, and (she) will find some amazing friends there.”
Nelson, an honors student with a 3.92 grade-point average, will graduate from Granite Bay early, on Friday, so she can enroll at Cal Poly next month.
“(Cal Poly) is lucky to get her,” said Bret Almazan-Cezar, coach of Division II state champion Archbishop Mitty of San Jose. “That kid has a tool box that is so full. She’s a strong personality and a leader.”