Diane Nelson is entering her eighth year on the Gonzaga volleyball coaching staff and the third as head coach.
In her second season, Nelson led a youthful group to a 14-16 overall record with a 9-9 mark in West Coast Conference play, good for a tie for fourth place. The Zags carried 12 underclassmen on the 2017 roster with just one senior, fifth-year graduate transfer Alyse Whitaker. Despite their youth, the Zags produced multiple top-10 season performances as a team, cracking the top 10 in nine categories: kills, assists, digs, service aces, attack percentage, attack attempts, digs per set, points and sets played.
During her first year at the helm of the program, Nelson guided the Zags to one of the best seasons in the last 27 years. The Zags went 17-11 overall and 10-8 in WCC play, both marks better than any since at least 1994. The Zags finished in a tie for third in the WCC, their highest finish in that span as well. Among the notable results were a win against Pepperdine on the road -- the program's first-ever win in Malibu -- and a 3-0 record and tournament title at the 2016 Utah Volleyball Classic.
The 2016 season continued an upward trend for the Zags, being the third consecutive winning season. In 2014, Gonzaga went 17-12, eclipsing the .500 mark for the first time since 1994. They went 16-15 a year later for the first consecutive pair of winning seasons since 1989-90.
Gonzaga has developed in every aspect of the game since Nelson joined the staff. In 2014, the Bulldogs finished among the nation's top 20 in kills, kills per set, assists, and assists per set, while 2015 saw more digs per set and better passing than any time in the previous six years.
Nelson has helped two Zags earn First Team All-WCC honors during her time in Spokane: Emmy Allen in 2016 and Savannah Blinn from 2013-15. Blinn also picked up All-America Honorable Mention honors twice and various Regional awards three times.
A former Bulldog herself, Nelson (nee Pascua) is the first alum to take the reins of the volleyball program. She played from 1995-98 and is one of 14 Zags who've posted 1,000 career kills, ending with 1,094. She's eighth on the all-time service aces list with 95, and she earned a spot on the conference All-Academic squad as a senior in 1998.
In addition to her college experience, Nelson played professionally on the AVP and FIVB Tours, winning two tournaments and earning a top 32 ranking. While starting out as a professional, she also coached at Santa Fe Christian High School in Solana Beach, Calif., for five years. She led the school to four state title matches, winning in 2003 and 2005.
Since joining the Gonzaga staff, she married Ryan Nelson, a teacher at North Central High School, and took his last name. The couple lives in the Spokane area and has a son named Mason.