Athlete of the week: Nelson’s extra hard work is paying off for the Hawks

Liberty Ranch guard Olivia Nelson (left) looks to drive past Union Mine guard Alexis Collins in the first quarter of a Sierra Valley Conference girls basketball game at The Hawks Nest on Jan. 16. Nelson had a team-high 16 points.

Accomplishments: Olivia Nelson believes in spreading the wealth.

That has been evident this season for the Liberty Ranch High girls basketball player, a senior point guard. Nelson was the Hawks’ leading scorer with 16 points against Union Mine in a Sierra Valley Conference game at The Hawks Nest on Jan. 16. That was half of the Hawks’ points, as Union Mine, the defending conference champions, posted a 64-35 win over Liberty Ranch (2-4 in the SVC, 10-12).

“Our team was focusing on getting the open shots because we knew our shots were going to be limited with Union Mine’s defense,” Nelson said. “They are a very good team. So any open shots I had I just took it confidently. My teammates were there with good passing.”

Nelson is one of five Liberty Ranch players who are averaging double-digit scoring this season. Nelson is fifth at an even 10 points per game. Forward Kloey Calkins leads Liberty Ranch at 13.6 points per game, followed by guard Tori Azevedo at 13.3, forward Olivia Klotz 11.7 and guard/forward Ashley Kirbyson 10.2.

“We have girls on our team that know how to persevere; been through ups and downs,” Nelson said. “The ones who have stuck it out, it shows in the games. We are able to have that good team vibe. We just work well together.”

Before the start of the season, Nelson worked on his shooting skills last fall, summer and spring.

“I worked with my dad and my mom,” said Nelson of her parents David and Heather Nelson.

Nelson and Liberty Ranch have adjusted to coaching changes in recent months. David Mullens was hired as the new head coach. But health problems at the start of the season led to Liberty Ranch Athletic Director Anthony Linebaugh naming Sean Duryee as the interim head coach. Earlier this month, Linebaugh, who is also Liberty Ranch’s football head coach, said that Mullens officially resigned and Duryee was named as the new head coach.

“We have always respected and worked very hard under Coach Sean,” said Nelson of Duryee. “He always pushes us to the best of our abilities. We always give him our best abilities on and off the court. We did everything he tells us to do, and we’ve asked him if we can put in more work. He’s always there to push us.”

Along with playing on the Liberty Ranch varsity squad the last two seasons, Nelson, who started playing basketball in kindergarten, played on the junior varsity team her sophomore year and the freshmen squad as a freshman. She played on the school’s junior varsity softball teams her freshman and sophomore years, but opted to focus on basketball after her sophomore year.

Nelson plans to play basketball in college, but only for fun. After she graduates from Liberty Ranch this spring, Nelson will be attending Brigham Young University-Idaho in Rexburg, Idaho. She plans to play for the college’s intramural basketball teams. Nelson plans to major in elementary education.

Contact Mike Bush at mikeb@lodinews.com. Follow on Twitter: @MBushLodiSports.

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