Jeff Nelson just wants to talk about volleyball — nothing more, nothing less.
The fourth-year head volleyball coach is on the cusp of a tremendous accomplishment: his 500th college match as a head coach.
But when Sports Information Director Frank Mercogliano reminded Nelson about that piece of trivia, Nelson tried to dodge the topic with a clever quip.
“So old,” he said. “Can we focus on something else?”
Nelson’s humor is evident in his coaching style, and he has changed Lobo volleyball culture.
Hired in 2008, Nelson led UNM to a 22-7 record his first season. It was the Lobos’ most wins since 1991, and they finished 11-5 in Mountain West Conference, also the most conference wins since 1991.
And last season the Lobos advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time under Nelson.
“He turned around our program. He turned around New Mexico volleyball,” senior Lisa Meeter said. “To have this accomplished, to be here in New Mexico, I am so proud to be under him, and I know that (the players) meet with him all the time, and he is just a great person.”
Nelson has done more than just coach his players. With Nelson, the Lobos have had more wins and more player postseason honors, not to mention an increase in fan attendance at Johnson Center.
Former Lobo Jeanne Fairchild was named to the program’s first AVCA All-American since 1992, and Fairchild was the fifth All-American in UNM history.
Under Nelson, nine players received Mountain West Conference and national academic honors.
“I have been fortunate to hang around, I guess,” Nelson said. “I am just feeling really fortunate to still be doing what I love to do.”
There’s no question that the feeling is mutual for Nelson’s players.
Senior Jade Michaelsen said she wouldn’t be the player she is today without Nelson’s guidance.
“I think, personally for me, he is a great mentor,” Michaelsen said. “He’s a great setter, and I get to train under him. You like to learn under someone who has done it themselves, and he’s been where we want to be, and that is NCAA tournament, the Final Four, and he has done all that. It’s great to learn under someone who has such passion for the game.”