Kaitlin Nielsen enters her fourth season on the Kansas Volleyball coaching staff in 2022. She joined coach Ray Bechard’s staff in 2019 following six seasons at UCLA, where she served in multiple roles.
While at Kansas, Nielsen has coached five All-Big 12 selections, four All-Big 12 Rookie Team selections, one Big 12 Freshman of the Year and four AVCA All-Region honorees. Additionally, freshman outside hitter Caroline Bien was named an honorable mention All-American by the AVCA in 2021.
In Nielsen’s third season, the Jayhawks were selected to compete in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, for the program’s first postseason appearance since 2017. The unseeded Jayhawks were sent to Omaha, Nebraska, for the first weekend and KU brought home two wins after defeating #19 Oregon, 3-0, and #20 Creighton, 3-1, to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in program history.
Prior to Kansas, Nielsen spent six seasons at UCLA, helping the Bruins compile a record of 123-67. She mentored 18 All-American award winners, 16 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Region honorees and 24 All-Pac 12 awardees. The Bruins also reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in four-straight campaigns, which included a 2016 NCAA Regional Final appearance.
Under the guidance of head coach Stein Metzger and Nielsen, UCLA embarked on its first season of beach volleyball in 2013. In that inaugural season a pair of UCLA doubles teams reached the AVCA National Championships and one Bruin became the program’s first All-American.
An up-and-coming coach, the UCLA graduate received the 2016 AVCA Thirty Under 30 Award, which recognizes coaching talent at all levels of the sport for those under 30-years old.
A standout attacker in her playing time at UCLA (2005-09), Nielsen (then Kaitlin Sather) appeared in 132 matches and 448 sets, producing 1,501 kills, 1,153 digs, 99 service aces and 279 blocks.
As a freshman in 2005, Sather was named to the All-Pac-10 Freshman team, while in her sophomore campaign she helped UCLA earn an appearance in the NCAA National Semifinals.
In 2007, Sather was again recognized by the league, earning All-Pac-10 Honorable Mention, while also earning All-Region accolades. UCLA nearly reached the semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament for the second-consecutive season, but fell one match short.
After a one-year redshirt campaign in 2008 due to shoulder surgery, she returned for her senior and arguably most impressive season for UCLA, finishing with AVCA Honorable Mention All-America, AVCA Honorable Mention All-Region and All-Pac-10 Conference accolades.
Sather concluded her career ranked 12th on UCLA’s all-time kills list, ninth in kills per set (3.35), fourth in total attacks (4,287), 11th in digs and tied for 10th in sets played. She is only the 12th Bruin to record at least 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career. Sather graduated from UCLA with a degree in history and a minor in education in 2009.
Following her time at UCLA, the Santa Rosa, California, native began her professional career in 2010 on the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) Tour. She appeared in 22 events, which included the Jose Cuervo Pro Beach Volleyball Series, National Volleyball League, USA Volleyball IDQ and Wide Open Beach Volleyball, while also appearing in two FIVB and three NORCECA events.
Nielsen is married to former U.S. National Team member Nils Nielsen and the couple has two daughters.