Nelles ready for next step
Sarah Nelles of St. Anns will attend Mercyhurst University this fall on a full athletic scholarship. Photo Special to BPSN Sports.
When Mercyhurst University offered Sarah Nelles a full athletic scholarship, she couldn’t wait to put pen to paper and make it official.
The 17-year-old, Grade 12 student at Grimsby Secondary School will attend the Erie, Pa., school this fall and is expected to make a major impact on the women’s hockey program.
“I had a few offers but I think Mercyhurst was the one from the beginning,” Nelles said, from her home in St. Anns. “As far as I know, they kind of saw me develop through the years and really liked how I played in the Esso Cup with the older age group. They contacted me and we corresponded for a little bit and from there I got a full ride.”
Nelles, who will major in education, admits it’s a relief have her academic and athletic future mapped out.
“It’s nice,” she smiled. “The road to it is a little bit different. At first you commit and then have to decide. I just committed to the education program. I’m looking forward to a positive experience there.”
Nelles feels Mercyhurst was the perfect choice for her, on and off the ice.
“It’s excellent. It’s far enough to be away but close enough to come home.”
Nelles will be one of several local players already at the school joining Alexa Vasko of St. Catharines, Leah Klassen of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Morgan Korzak of Grimsby.
“They said to all the freshmen they expect us all to play in the first year and expect us to prove ourselves to the team,” Nelles said. “From there it’s if we play it’s our choice and if we don’t play it’s our choice.”
Nelles grew up in a hockey-rich household, first tying up her skates at age four in Smithville.
“It’s a little small town but it’s surrounded by hockey. Everything about Smithville is through hockey,” said Nelles, who cheers for the Toronto Maple Leafs. “I just kind of grew up with it from there and my family has all been through hockey.
“We all sit down Saturday night and watch the game and now every night we can when we’re home we watch hockey or talk about hockey. I don’t think there’s a normal conversation other than about hockey.”
Nelles quickly moved up the ranks and as a minor last season played in 67 games and scored 18 goals with 16 assists for the Stoney Creek Junior Sabres of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League. Last November, she was captain of Team Ontario Blue at the U18 Canadian National Championships in 2017, leading her team to the silver medal in Quebec.
“It was a great experience and we played great hockey,” she said.
Nelles was thrilled to wear the C.
“It was a surprise. I was obviously honoured and very grateful they saw leadership qualities,” she said. “It was a great group of girls I had the opportunity to continue to the championship game with. It was a great run.”
Nelles said the level of play was an eye-opener.
“The speed obviously when you are playing with a great group of girls from across Canada really picks up and the high intensity. It’s more well rounded.”
Nelles, who is currently nursing a broken wrist, is captaining the Junior Sabres this season and also plays for her school team.
“I like to think of myself as somebody who sees the ice a little better than most. I have good vision on the ice. I like setting up plays as much as I like scoring.”
Nelles obviously takes her hockey seriously, but is also a standout student with a 4.0 average in her 10 core courses.
“It’s hockey all the time but it’s also school. My coaches expressed that school is always important and you don’t let it slide,” she said.
With so much hockey, Nelles said it’s not uncommon for her to do homework on the bus en route to school or in the car on the way to Stoney Creek.
“I’ve learned time management and organization as one of the most important things,” she said.
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