The four seniors helped lead UNC to 106 wins, a .821 winning percentage and four-straight berths to the NCAA tournament during their time in Chapel Hill. The quartet spurred the Tar Heels to new heights in 2014, as the ACC Champions reached a program-high ranking of No. 7 in the AVCA Coaches Poll and No. 5 in the NCAA RPI.
In addition, the team finished its season in style by reaching the NCAA Regional Final for the first time in school history.
This week, GoHeels.com will look back at the careers and achievements of each player and the impact they have had on the Carolina volleyball program.
One year ago, Chaniel Nelson had just missed her entire junior season with a leg injury after earning All-ACC and AVCA All-America Honorable Mention honors during her first two years. Fast forward and Nelson has now cemented her legacy at Carolina after a stunning senior campaign, where she led UNC to the Regional Finals and was one of the most devastating opposites in the nation.
Nelson, a left-handed opposite hitter, soared for 290 kills and a career-best 2.93 kills/set this season. She drastically improved her efficiency, jumping from .236 during her sophomore campaign to a .300 hitting percentage as a senior. As an anchor on the right pin for UNC in its 6-2 system, Nelson also had her career-best blocking season with 1.04 blocks/set. She became just the second Tar Heel to earn AVCA All-America honors after she was named a Second Team All-American for her outstanding senior season.
North Carolina was able to lean on Nelson in its biggest matches as the senior consistently performed when the spotlight was brightest. With Carolina trailing 2-1 in sets on the road at Pittsburgh, Nelson burst out for 15 kills to lead UNC to a five-set victory; her season-high 19 kills against Georgia Tech helped the Tar Heels rally from a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 on the road. Nelson had 16 kills against USC, 14 kills against No. 10 Oregon and 13 kills against No. 2 Texas during Carolina’s NCAA tournament run.
For her career, she played in 335 sets across 96 matches, amassing 897 kills, 345 total blocks and 264 digs. Nelson was a three-time selection to the All-ACC First Team, and a two-time AVCA All-Region selection. She also earned numerous team awards, being selected as the team’s Most Improved Player during her redshirt year in 2010, and then the team’s Rookie of the Year Award in 2011. In 2013, she was honored with the Jean E. Kindy Memorial Award.
Nelson’s achievements off the court are as impressive as her career on court. During her time at Carolina, she served as the volleyball team’s S.A.A.C. representative, and she was an active Veteran Leader in the Richard A. Baddour Leadership Academy. Further, Nelson blended her communication and leadership skills to form UNC S.W.A.G., where she serves as founder and director of the student-run organization dedicated to promoting mental and physical wellness to student-athletes. Her efforts culminated when she earned a spot as a Senior CLASS Award finalist, finishing second in online voting and being named a Senior CLASS First Team All-American.
Nelson graduated on December 14, 2014, one day after leading her team to the NCAA Regional Final for the first time in school history. She now is playing her first season of professional volleyball in Puerto Rico for Leonas De Ponce.
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