Nebraska volleyball center blocker Kayla Caffey has a goal, and she hopes to return in 2022 to achieve it.
“I just want to win a championship,” she said HuskerOnline.
Middle blocker Kayla Caffey is taking spring classes at UNL and will participate in her first season of beach volleyball this spring. Nebraska is requesting an exemption for Caffey to return for her seventh season of college volleyball.
“This group has all the talent,” Caffey said. “I think we can really close the deal next year. I feel like this is a championship team, a winning team from the Big Ten. I think we were there and we’re working so hard, so I just wanted another one there stand a chance.”
Caffey, who is from Chicago, said failing Wisconsin in the national championship had an impact on her decision.
“I feel like we got just so close when we got to the final that I really left a bad taste in my mouth,” she said.
Caffey has technically only played college volleyball for four seasons and is applying to play her fifth.
She redshirted as a freshman in Missouri in 2016, played 2017 and then took a medical hardship red shirt season in 2018. Caffey then competed in the 2019 season for Missouri before moving to Nebraska for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Due to the extra year of qualifying for COVID-19, many players across the country played five seasons, including former Huskers Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun.
While the choice is in the hands of the NCAA, Caffey said she is hopeful she can return for another season.
If awarded, Caffey will be by far Nebraska’s most experienced center blocker. Kalynn Meyer, who is from Superior, Neb. is the lone returning Husker center. She played in 11 games in her two seasons with Nebraska.
Head coach John Cook told the Lincoln Journal Star that Rylee Gray, the Elkhorn native and center blocker, is no longer with the team. Gray was one of six players in the 2021 freshman league.
Upcoming freshmen Bekka Allick and Maggie Mendelson will add more depth to the Huskers group.
“I think leading with my game is something I’ve always done, but I want to take on a new role this year and try to be more of a leader, especially because I want to be kind of a leader in an educational environment,” said Caffey.
She said she doesn’t know what her leadership role will look like, but she wants to try to be more of a leader to her teammates in the fall.
Caffey graduated in December with her master’s degree in teacher learning and teacher education focused on primary education. She is now doing a master’s again that focuses on administration in higher education.
Caffey will have the opportunity to continue to grow on the field and in her leadership role. In her two seasons with Nebraska, Caffey said she has become a better volleyball player, better than she could have imagined.
The 2021 AVCA All-American second team had 255 kills in 2021, averaging 2.41 per set and hitting .363 in the season. Caffey, who earned Nebraska’s 2021 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, led the team by 118 blocks.
She had a career-high 15 kills in the Huskers’ five-set loss to Wisconsin in the national championship game.
Caffey joins former starting setter Nicklin Hames who announced her return earlier in January. Hames will be given a new position in 2022 as a defensive specialist and graduation assistant during the 2023 season.
Middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach transferred to Long Beach State for her final season of eligibility.
Schwarzenbach and Caffey lived together last year and Caffey said that Schwarzenbach is one of her close friends.
“She just always had a good, positive energy about her like she’s just really fun to be around, definitely the life of the party,” Caffey said. “She just brought lightness to everything. I’m really going to miss her like I’m around.”
She said Schwarzenbach pushed her to become a better player. Although Caffey was the starter during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, she said the fact that Schwarzenbach worked hard after her every day made her a better player.
For now, Caffey said she’s excited to play beach volleyball in the spring, especially since she’s never played sand before. Other than that, Caffey hasn’t set any personal goals for this year yet. She has focused on one thing so far.
“I want to win a championship. I know I want to do that,” said Caffey. “I haven’t thought too much about the rest. I’m just glad we’re moving towards me to really be able to come back.”