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Anders Nelson

When Vanderbilt Athletic Director Candice Lee announced the revival of the university’s volleyball program in April, she said she expected the program to compete from Day 1.

Lee showed her commitment to the program last week, announcing Anders Nelson as the school’s head volleyball coach. Nelson has spent the last 11 years at Kentucky, serving as associate head coach of the 2020 team — the first in the SEC to win a national championship in volleyball (2020).

“I want our volleyball student-athletes to walk into a championship-caliber program, which is why I’m so excited to welcome Anders Nelson as our first coach,” Lee said. “Coach Nelson not only has valuable experience as part of SEC and NCAA championship teams but embraces and understands the unique opportunity that is Vanderbilt. 

“As we promised with the Vandy United campaign, we want to reimagine what is possible for Vanderbilt Athletics. And by joining us now, Coach Nelson has time to immerse himself in our collaborative environment and help build every facet of this program from the ground up.”

At Kentucky, Nelson, 35, helped the Wildcats win a share of the SEC championship in six straight seasons, and the program reached the NCAA Tournament in all 11 seasons he was in Lexington.

UK had a 117-11 record against SEC opponents during the seven seasons Nelson was associate head coach. He also helped recruit 2021 AVCA Player of the Year and 2020-21 Honda Award winner Madison Lilley.

“From the beginning of my lifelong relationship with volleyball, I learned to value not only the thrill of competition but the opportunity to influence how young people see themselves and the world around them,” Nelson said. “Challenging and supporting student-athletes to be their best on the court unlocks their potential off the court. 

“To build an SEC program on those principles, in a vibrant and dynamic city, at a world-class university like Vanderbilt is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m grateful to Chancellor Daniel Diermeier and Candice Lee for entrusting it to me.”

Volleyball will be the 11th women’s sport and the 17th varsity sport overall that Vanderbilt sponsors when the program begins playing during the 2025-26 season. The university was the only SEC member school and just one of two Power 5 league members to not have a women’s volleyball team prior to the April announcement.

A volleyball locker room will be built at Memorial Gymnasium, where the team will practice and play, once the men’s and women’s basketball programs migrate to the future basketball operations facility.

The SEC has had just one national volleyball champion — Kentucky in 2020 — along with two runners-up — Florida in 2003 and 2017.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_