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Z-M volleyball star Nelson says yes to Division I Seton Hall

Rylee Nelson, an incoming senior at Zumbrota-Mazeppa, has accepted a volleyball scholarship offer from Seton Hall University, which plays in the Big East Conference and is located in New Jersey.

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Zumbrota-Mazeppa’s Rylee Nelson (7) hits the ball during a volleyball match against Byron on Sept. 28, 2021, in Byron. On Sunday, Nelson accepted a Division I volleyball scholarship to Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo
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ZUMBROTA — Rylee Nelson has longed to go somewhere distant for college.

The Zumbrota-Mazeppa incoming senior is going to get her way. She is heading 1,125 miles from home. Better yet, she’s receiving money to do it.

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On Sunday, Nelson said yes to a Division I volleyball scholarship offer from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.

The Pirates play in the prestigious Big East Conference.

It all seems there for the 5-foot-9 Nelson, one of the top volleyball players in southeastern Minnesota and a setter and right-side hitter for No. 4-ranked Z-M.

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“Since I’ve known that I wanted to play volleyball in college, I’ve always wanted to go away from home,” said Nelson, who also considered Tennessee Tech. “I want to see what life is like far away. I know I don’t have to live there forever.”

Z-M coach Lisa Nelson is also Rylee’s mother. She, too, is on board with Rylee's eventual big move.

“We visited there last week,” Lisa said. “It is a very welcoming and safe campus. It has that community feel that we’ve grown used to at Zumbrota-Mazeppa.”

Rylee has already traveled extensively. That’s happened as she’s been a four-year member of the Junior Olympic volleyball team Northern Lights, one of the top collections of players in the state. It also includes Stewartville star Arianna Blohm, who will attend Division I North Dakota State University in 2023.

The Northern Lights take oodles of trips. That included ones to Orlando and Indianapolis this summer, where the Seton Hall coaching staff got a look at Rylee both times.

The Pirates, who are headed by first-year coach Shannon Thompson, obviously liked what they saw in Nelson, a Libero for the Northern Lights.

'`It's a brand-new coaching staff and they’re trying to make the program better (6-12 in the Big East last year, 14-18 overall),” Nelson said. “(Thompson) told me she liked how I play. Seton Hall will run a fast offense under her and she has a gritty philosophy. As a Libero, you have to be gritty. But that approach brought me in a ton.”

Nelson had a standout high school season a year ago, as did her Z-M team. The Cougars finished 24-7 and lost in the Section 1AA final to Cannon Falls. Nelson, a versatile, quick and high-leaping setter/right-side hitter, finished with 516 assists, 216 kills, 50 aces, 313 digs and 61 blocks.

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She's excited to try to take those numbers even higher this season. But what has her even more hyped is her belief that Z-M has the stuff to get to the state tournament.

“I am super excited for our high school season,” Rylee said. “We have a lot of returners this year and a real chance to make it to state and get revenge.”

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALLZUMBROTA-MAZEPPA
Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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