A graduate of Rampart High School, Nelson played two seasons at Division I Murray State. She was the Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Week once and a member of the OVC All-Newcomer Team. Nelson led the Racers with 45 service aces in 1999 before transferring to UCCS for the 2000 season.
Nelson earned Second Team All-RMAC honors in her first season with the Mountain Lions and ranked No. 26 in Division II with 4.57 kills per game. She set the UCCS record with 30 kills against Western State, and added another 28 kills against Colorado College for the third-best performance in program history at the time. She finished the season with 407 kills for the sixth-best mark in UCCS history in 2000.
Nelson set the UCCS record in the following season with 568 kills, and matched her 30-kill performance against Harding. Both 30-kill performances still stand as program records. She added another 29 kills against Colorado Christian and 28 kills against Regis that season, and still has three of the top four performances in program history for kills in a single match. Nelson finished with 12 matches with 20 or more kills, was a two-time RMAC Player of the Week and was an RMAC First Team selection in her senior season.