Haley Nelson is 'one of the best' in terms of North Dakota talent
Haley Nelson is preparing for her first collegiate soccer season at the University of Mary.
JAMESTOWN — Haley Nelson was counted as the best senior athlete competing in North Dakota prep gymnastics scene in February.
While some probably expected her to make good on her tumbling talents, Nelson already had made her decision about her post-high school pursuits and they did not involve a leotard.
"I remember telling (Jamestown High School soccer coach) Brandi (Harty) the summer going into my sophomore year that my goal was to play soccer in college," Nelson said. "I think that surprised her because everyone has always seen me as a gymnast before a soccer player."
Nelson committed to play collegiate-level soccer at the University of Mary beginning this fall. The recent Jamestown High School grad will be making the move to Bismarck on Aug. 6.
The Marauders are set to officially kick off the season on Aug. 25 against South Dakota's Black Hills State University. The match is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.
"I decided to choose soccer over gymnastics, because as much as I loved my gymnastics career I just grew to love soccer more," Nelson said. "It’s fun to be a part of a team and knowing that not all of the pressure is just on you, everyone’s constantly supporting each other."
Nelson has got plenty of support in the Buffalo City. Nelson said she still practices with a majority of the Blue Jay squad three times a week. The U Mary commit said her twin brother Hunter and Breanna Oettle have been helpful by coming to the field with her and training with her when she needs a partner.
"The training for college includes quite a bit of running, lifts and soccer sessions throughout the week," Nelson said. "My coaches have said that the most important thing with training is that you put in all your effort and hold yourself accountable."
Nelson said she is definitely nervous for her upcoming collegiate season, but her coaches at U-Mary have been really encouraging and all the girls on the team have been welcoming. Nelson said that has been very helpful in regard to the adjustment from high school to college.
"Haley is one of the top players in the state of North Dakota and a prime reason we were interested in her as a player," University of Mary head soccer coach Sarah Cook said. "Our roster is very diverse with players from all over the USA, as well as international players, but we definitely want to make sure we are getting the best talent from our state as well, and Haley is one of those players."
Another thing that has helped the Bismarck-bound Blue Jay prepare for her first college season was a star-studded final prep season.
Nelson tallied 16 goals for the Blue Jays in her final season and tacked on a pair of assists for 18 total points, a figure that eclipsed her teammates' marks by at least 11 points.
Nelson's 16 goals tied Minot's MaLiah Burke and Bismarck High's Addy Massey for the most goals scored in the WDA.
As a junior, Nelson managed to put up a total of nine points.
"I think my last high school season helped me a lot," Nelson said. "I gained way more confidence in my abilities and even the downfalls we had benefited me in some way even though I didn’t feel that way at the times they happened."
Pitfalls and challenges will undoubtedly be a part of Nelson's collegiate career but the Blue Jay standout said she is doing all she can to strengthen herself mentally to avoid the setbacks she may encounter.
Right now, Nelson said she is trying to mentally prepare herself to not be too nervous and to play with confidence because that’s when she plays her best.
"Haley is competitive, driven and just an all-around athlete. Her accomplishments in gymnastics and soccer speak to that," Cook said. "I expect Haley to be able to compete for an impact role on the team and I feel with her strength, speed and goal-scoring ability, she will not only do well but continue to evolve during her career here at University of Mary.
"With her work ethic in both sports, I know that she is an athlete who will thrive in our environment."