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FALL ATHLETES OF YEAR: Gators’ Drost leads award winners

As the owner of a powerful spike, a consistent jump serve and solid defensive instincts, Nikki Drost has a complete skill set for Green Valley’s girls volleyball team.

Especially for a player at the midway point of her high school career.

Drost, a sophomore outside hitter, has been named the Class 4A Girls Volleyball Player of the Year as part of the Review-Journal’s Fall Athletes of the Year.

“She is, in my opinion, the best all-around player in the state of Nevada right now, as a sophomore,” Green Valley coach Erin Hill said of Drost. “I’m glad she’s playing for us.”

Green Valley had a long list of stars in 2011, but Drost was the driving force behind the Gators’ historic season.

Drost averaged a team-high 4.0 kills per set for 382 kills on the year in leading Green Valley (32-6) to its first state title since 2001. She also paced the Gators with 88 aces and was third on the team with 114 digs.

“I think what makes her fun is she doesn’t even realize how good she is,” Hill said. “She just plays. She doesn’t let a lot of things bother her.

“She’s such a smart player. She knows when to put the ball down and where to put the ball down.”

The 5-foot-10-inch Drost played beyond her years when it mattered most, coming up with 16 kills, eight digs and four aces in a 3-0 sweep of Reed in the state final. She also put down 16 kills in a 3-0 win over Centennial in a state semifinal, and supplied 17 kills and six aces in a 3-0 victory over Las Vegas for the Sunrise Region title.

Green Valley finished the season on a 17-match win streak, including the final nine without losing a set.

Hill said the Gators had extra motivation to win the state title this year the moment the 2010 season ended with a 3-0 loss to Douglas in the state final in Reno.

“On the ride home, we said, ‘We’re going to be that good,’ ” Hill said of Douglas. “We were going to be that good all the way around.”

Drost said she stepped up her workout schedule with personal trainer Jason Jones to six days a week as a sophomore, and used guidance from Hill to become a better player.

“I think I got a lot smarter with my shots,” Drost said. “I wasn’t hitting it to the same spot. And my defensive skills and depth perception got a lot better.”

Green Valley had a balanced offense that also featured outside hitters Carly Schiess, the Southeast League Most Valuable Player as a junior, and Sommer King, a UNR signee.

The dynamic front row, along with junior setter Jenna Swaffer, kept opponents guessing all season.

The Gators’ defense was keyed by Nikki Drost’s older sister, senior libero Alexa Drost.

“We wouldn’t have done it without Coach Hill, and if we weren’t such a family,” Nikki Drost said of winning a state title. “We had so much fun.”

As the Gators’ state championship rings arrive this month, the focus for Nikki Drost will shift to becoming even more of a leader as a junior.

Green Valley doesn’t figure to enter rebuilding mode anytime soon.

“It was by far the best team we’ve had at Green Valley,” said Hill, who finished her 21st year as coach. “But the future looks bright, and they get along so well.”

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