She's qualified because: With a core group of girls she has coached since the sixth grade, including her daughter Alyssa Nelson and stepdaughter Meranda Watkins, Nelson directed the Patriots to a 25-11 season that included a second straight North Yosemite League title and the second Central Section championship in school history. Fourth-seeded Hoover added to the first title captured in 1986 with a 25-20, 17-25, 25-22, 25-23 win over No. 2 Redwood in the Division III final. The Patriots also upset No. 1 and defending champion Central Valley Christian in a four-sets semifinal.
Trials to triumph: After getting married a week before tryouts, Nelson was hospitalized seven days for liver and kidney failure during the first week of school. She wasn't cleared to go back to work for two weeks and didn't receive a complete bill of good health until the end of September. It was during this stretch that Hoover went 6-6 and hardly resembled the championship-caliber team Nelson envisioned after returning most of her starters from a D-III semifinalist the previous season. But the turning point came after an Oct. 13 loss to Redwood at the Hoover Tournament.
When they returned to practice on Monday, Nelson and assistant Luke Ross decided the Patriots needed to work less on skills and fundamentals and focus on how to compete. Practices were based around competition with consequences for losing. Hoover would go on to win 12 of its next 14 matches before its season came to an end with a four-set loss to Windward-Los Angeles in the CIF Southern California Regionals.
She said it: "It put a fire under them. I was worried it wasn't going to work, but it did. When they got together, it was like 'we are not going to lose.' Every game we played, they'd get more and more aggressive."