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Kayla Banwarth named Ole Miss volleyball head coach

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Big 12 Champion. Olympic medalist. Ole Miss Rebel.

Olympics: Volleyball Jack Gruber-USA TODAY Sports

Kayla Banwarth has been named the next head coach of Ole Miss volleyball.

Banwarth, 30, comes to Oxford with an impressive resume both on the court and on the sideline as an assistant coach with a powerhouse University of Nebraska program.

After joining the Huskers as a walk-on in 2007, Banwarth earned the starting Libero spot midway through her freshman year, and anchored the defense en rout to three Big-12 titles, and the NCAA semifinals in 2008. When her collegiate career ended, she played professionally overseas for a short time, but focused primarily on competing with the U.S. National Team.

While with the red, white and blue, Banwarth was named USA Volleyball’s Female Indoor Most Improved Player of the Year in 2013, and Best Receiver at the 2015 NORCECA Championship, where she and the US took the gold medal. (For the non-volleyball folks out there, that is a big deal.)

Banwarth added to her decorated career with gold medals at multiple FIVB events and the Pan American Games, as well as a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

If anyone knows the game, and how to consistently improve, it’s her.

Volleyball - Olympics: Day 5 Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Beyond her playing career, Banwarth is a rising star in the coaching world, and was named one of the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association’s Thirty Under 30 in April.

Before her return to Nebraska, she spent two seasons with the (traditionally ranked) Pepperdine Men’s program, and helped lead the Waves’ back line to rank 36th nationally with 7.69 digs per set. Banwarth has spent the last three seasons as an assistant in Lincoln, and oversaw the Husker’s liberos and passers, and led recruiting efforts.

Under her tutelage, Nebraska won a national title in 2017, saw multiple All-American defenders, and reached the national championship again in 2018 with a defense that posted an impressive .144 opponent hitting percentage.

After Keith Carter chose to part ways with Steve McRoberts earlier this month, he was tasked with his third head coaching vacancy in his short time as full-time athletic director. He nailed it.

“Throughout our search process, it became clear that Coach Banwarth is one of the top up-and-coming leaders in volleyball,” Carter said. “Immediately we recognized her rare mix of youthful energy and top-level experience. She brings a championship mentality, recruiting prowess and brilliant knowledge of the game. From walking on at Nebraska to starring for Team USA, Kayla’s drive and determination is remarkable, and we look forward to seeing that passion in our program for years to come.”

Banwarth is a fresh, young mind that will lead a team that has yet to break out beyond mediocrity in a conference of consistent, nationally-ranked winners. The ceiling is high as the eighth head coach in program history brings a new vision to Oxford.

And if there is one thing to know about Banwarth, nothing is going to touch the ground.