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Husker volleyball MB Kayla Caffey hoping to come back to win championship

Nebraska volleyball middle blocker Kayla Caffey has a goal and she hopes to return in 2022 to accomplish it.

"I just want to win a championship," she told HuskerOnline.

Middle blocker Kayla Caffey is enrolled in spring classes at UNL and will participate in her first season of beach volleyball this spring. Nebraska is applying for a waiver for Caffey to return for her seventh season of college volleyball.

"This group has all the talent," Caffey said. "I think that we can really seal the deal next year. I feel like this is a championship team, a Big Ten winning team. I think that we were right there and we work so hard so I just wanted another shot at that."

Caffey, who is from Chicago, said coming up short against Wisconsin in the national championship had an impact on her decision.

"I feel like we just came so close when we were in the finals, that I just really left a bad taste in my mouth," she said.

Nebraska middle blocker Kayla Caffey
Nebraska middle blocker Kayla Caffey (Getty Images)

Caffey has technically only played four seasons of college volleyball and is applying to play her fifth.

She redshirted as a freshman in 2016 at Missouri, played 2017 and then took a medical hardship redshirt season in 2018. Caffey then competed in the 2019 season for Missouri before transferring to Nebraska for the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Due to the COVID-19 extra year of eligibility, many players around the country played five seasons including former Huskers Lauren Stivrins and Lexi Sun.

While the choice is in the NCAA's hands, Caffey said she feels hopeful she'll be able to return for another season.

If granted, Caffey will be Nebraska's most experienced middle blocker by a long shot. Kalynn Meyer, who is from Superior, Neb., is the only returning Husker middle. She has played in 11 matches in her two seasons at Nebraska.

Head coach John Cook told the Lincoln Journal Star that Elkhorn native and middle blocker Rylee Gray is no longer with the team. Gray was one of the six players in the 2021 freshman class.

Incoming freshmen Bekka Allick and Maggie Mendelson will add more depth to the Huskers group.

"I think leading with my play is something that I've always done, but I want to take on a new role this year and try to be more of a leader especially since I kind of want to be a leader in an educational setting," Caffey said.

She said she doesn't know what her leadership role will look like but she wants to try to be more of a leader for her teammates in the fall.

Caffey graduated in December with her masters in teacher learning and teacher education which is focused on elementary education. She is now earning another masters that is focused on administration in higher education.

Nebraska volleyball middle blocker Kayla Caffey
Nebraska volleyball middle blocker Kayla Caffey (Getty Images)

Caffey will have an opportunity to continue to grow on the court as well as in her leadership role. In her two seasons at Nebraska, Caffey said she has become a better volleyball player, better than she could have imagined.

The 2021 second-team AVCA All-American had 255 kills in 2021, averaged 2.41 per set, and hit .363 on the season. Caffey, who earned Nebraska's 2021 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, led the team with 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 the month of January. Hames will be in a new position in 2022 as a defensive specialist and a graduate 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 Schwarzenbach is one of her really 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 lightheartedness to everything. I'm really gonna miss her like being around."

She said Schwarzenbach pushed her to come a better player. While Caffey was the starter during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, she said having Schwarzenbach working hard every day right behind her made her a better player.

As for now, Caffey said she is excited to play beach volleyball in the spring, especially since she has never played sand. Other than that, Caffey hasn't decided on personal goals for this year yet. She has been focusing on one thing so far.

"I want to win a championship. I know that I want to do that," Caffey said. "All the rest of the stuff I haven't thought too much about. I'm just glad that we're moving towards me actually being able to come back."