By Sean Gorman, Register Sports Writer
Gainesville Daily Register
It all started like any other morning for Lindsay junior volleyball player Nicole Fleitman. The Lady Knights’ star middle blocker woke up, noticed she had a new notification on the social media website Twitter and checked her profile on her phone to find out more.
The next thing she saw next changed what began as a regular day into one she’ll never forget.
Fleitman had received messages from the University Interscholastic League and the National Federation of State High School Associations congratulating her for doing something that no high school player had ever accomplished: she had set a national record for average kills earned per game in a season.
“As soon as saw it, I yelled ‘Mom get in here, you have to see this,’” Fleitman said. “She said ‘oh my gosh’ and immediately texted coach [Bridget] Anderle telling her I had set a national record. It was really exciting.”
Fleitman finished the 2013 season with an all-time best average of 21.9 kills, a statistic awarded when the volleyball hit can’t be returned by the opponent, per game. The previous record of 21.8 had been set by a player in Elizabeth, N.J. in 2003. Fleitman also ranked second in the country with a total of 986 kills on the year.
“When I was first told I had set a national record, it didn’t really sink in,” Fleitman said. “I kept thinking more about Texas and statewide records for a couple days before I started to think how it’s the whole United States and I have the record.”
The record came in the midst of a season to remember for the Lady Knights. LHS finished 37-8, went undefeated in district play and advanced to the semifinal round of the Class A UIL State Volleyball Tournament, reaching state for the second time in the program’s eight-year history.
“It was great to make it to state since we had only been there once and we’ve only been around for so long,” Fleitman said. “I couldn’t have gotten the record without my team. The setters always put the ball right where it needed to be for me to get a kill, and they were always helped by the passers. It was a team effort.”
Looking back on the 2013 season, it was the times spent with those teammates that Fleitman appreciated most.
“The big ones for me were winning the regional tournament, all the bus rides with the team and all the big tournaments we went to spending time together,” Fleitman said. “ Being with teammates that love the game like I do always makes it that much more enjoyable.”
All along, neither Fleitman or LHS coach Bridget Anderle ever had any idea the junior was closing in on a national record with each game Lindsay played.
“To be honest, I had not checked the NFHS website to know there was a national record,” Anderle said. “NicoIe finished second in total kills, she finished with 986 and the leader had 1063. I don’t know if we could have set the ball to Nicole any more this season, but if we had known about it, we would have tried to get that record to. With that in mind, to get this record is phenomenal.”
The middle blocker was recognized around the state for her efforts, being named District 11A MVP, MVP of the Region II 1A Tournament and a member of the Texas Girls Coaches Association All-State Volleyball Team.
Years before those accolades, Fleitman’s career on the court began in seventh grade, when she made the transition from basketball to volleyball. A year later, she began playing year round, competing for Lindsay and club volleyball teams. She continues to do the same heading into her senior season.
“Being able to play year round is something that works in my favor,” Fleitman said. “I loved basketball too, but volleyball is the most fun game I have ever played.”
For all she’s done, Fleitman says she still has unfinished business on the court. Hopes of returning to the state tournament next year are already there, and she plans to continue her playing career after graduating from LHS at the college level.
“The focus next year is getting back to state,” Fleitman said. “To be able to do that with my teammates for this school would be very exciting.”