LINCOLN–(NU Athletics Jan. 13)–Former Nebraska volleyball assistant coach Tyler Hildebrand will return to the Huskers as an associate head coach, Head Coach John Cook announced on Monday.
Hildebrand, who helped coach the Huskers to an NCAA Championship in his only season at Nebraska in 2017, will replace Kayla Banwarth, who accepted the head coach position at Ole Miss in December.
Hildebrand, 35, is currently serving as the Director of Coaching for the USA Volleyball Beach National Team Program and will assume his associate head coach duties at Nebraska in August this year after the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo conclude.
From January to August, Kelly Hunter will serve as an interim assistant coach on the Husker staff. The Huskers’ two-time All-American and national champion setter was a graduate assistant during the 2019 season and will become the Huskers’ volunteer coach for the 2020 season once Hildebrand joins the staff this August.
Hildebrand will be the first associate head coach in Cook’s tenure (2000-present). He had a remarkable season at Nebraska in 2017, helping the Huskers win the NCAA title while coaching Hunter to first-team AVCA All-America honors and outside hitters Annika Albrecht and Mikaela Foecke to second-team All-America honors. Nebraska led all Big Ten teams in opponent hitting percentage (.154) as he coordinated the Huskers’ defense and game plans. His wife, former U.S. National Team captain Kristin Hildebrand, was a volunteer for the Huskers in 2017, but will not be this time around as she runs her own interior design business.
“We are so excited to be coming back to Nebraska,” Hildebrand said. “Nebraska has a special place in our hearts. The 2017 season was a magical year and left a burning impression on us. Kristin and I have been all over the world, played or coached in every gym there is, and we can confidently say that there is no place like Nebraska. Being a part of Husker Nation is like nothing else in collegiate sports, and I can’t wait to coach in the Devaney Center again with a full house in matches that matter with our fans behind us. The fans are such a special part of this program.
I’m so happy to get to have more time to learn from Coach Cook. One year wasn’t nearly enough. He pushes me to be a better coach, and I can’t say that about many people. I truly miss the challenge of coaching at Nebraska, and I look forward to learning even more from him and I am incredibly grateful to him for this opportunity. I’m always trying to live up to coach’s expectations, always trying to prove to him what I can do. The best I have coached in my career, I believe, was in 2017, and I owe a lot of that to Coach Cook.
Lastly, I want to thank the administration, Bill Moos and his staff. It means a lot to Kristin, Rhett and myself to get this opportunity to come back to Nebraska.”
In the interim, Hunter will join assistant coach Jaylen Reyes in coaching the beach volleyball season and taking a lead role in recruiting and the Huskers’ summer camps.
“I’m beyond excited and honored to join the coaching staff at my alma mater,” Hunter said. “I’m looking forward to being a part of Nebraska volleyball in a new role. Last season was a great taste of the coaching world, and I can’t wait to continue on this path with the best program and staff in the nation.”
“The 2017 season was one of my most enjoyable seasons as a head coach with Tyler and Kayla,” Cook said. “Obviously we had great results, but Tyler made me a better coach that year. I think he has a gift for coaching in how he sees the game. He has a very positive way of challenging people, including me. That’s why I reached out to him. Part of my job as head coach is to provide the best staff possible for our team. I really feel like hiring Tyler and having him join our staff gives us the best chance to be successful. I am grateful to our athletic director, Bill Moos, for his trust and confidence in helping us go in this direction. He has shown a great amount of support for Nebraska volleyball, and I am very thankful for that.”
Although Hildebrand has been stationed in California directing the U.S. Beach Volleyball program for the past two years, he has served as a consultant for Cook in his spare time, following the program, watching video and offering his thoughts. With Hildebrand’s first day on the job scheduled for August 10, Cook asked Hunter to take on a full-time assistant role for the next nine months.
“I’m personally very excited about that, because this will give her an opportunity to find out if coaching is her true passion,” Cook said. “Kelly is one of the greatest leaders I’ve ever been around, so I know that she’s a natural coach. Now we have the opportunity to develop her over the next nine months and lay the groundwork for her to continue her coaching career. Because she was with us this year as a grad assistant, this will be a natural transition for her with our team. She developed great relationships with our players and got off to a great start.”
Hildebrand first joined the Nebraska volleyball coaching staff as an assistant in February of 2017. He came to Nebraska after five seasons on the coaching staff of the Long Beach State men’s volleyball program, including two seasons as associate head coach. A former All-American at Long Beach State, Hildebrand was the top assistant there from 2013-15 after a decorated playing career on the U.S. Men’s National Team.
After concluding his collegiate playing career at Long Beach State in 2006, Hildebrand compiled an impressive list of accomplishments both as a player and coach. Professionally, he played on the U.S. Men’s National Team from 2006-12 and was a four-time Pan American Cup champion and a World University Games bronze medalist. He later served as the setting consultant for the U.S. Men’s National Team in 2015 as they won the FIVB World Cup and earned the bronze medal in the World League. In 2016, Hildebrand coached the U.S. beach volleyball duo of Jake Gibb and Casey Patterson at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Hildebrand also played professionally on the beach as part of the Association of Volleyball Professionals (AVP) from 2006-07.
While continuing his playing career as a professional, Hildebrand was a volunteer assistant for the Long Beach State men from 2008-10. In his first stint at the Beach, Hildebrand was a volunteer assistant under head coach Alan Knipe from 2008-10. He was part of the staff that led the 49ers to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) regular-season championship and an at-large berth to the NCAA Championships in 2008. Hildebrand was in charge of blocking and defense his first two seasons and worked primarily with the offense in 2010.
He joined the staff as a full-time assistant in 2013, and in his first year he helped Long Beach State reach the MPSF finals for the first time since his senior campaign in 2006. The Beach registered its best season in five years, finishing with a 24-8 overall record. Hildebrand worked closely with starting setter Connor Olbright, who garnered second-team All-America honors from both the AVCA and Volleyball Magazine. Outside hitter Taylor Crabb was also named the AVCA National Player of the Year and was a first-team All-American. In 2016, Hildebrand was named the AVCA Division I-II Men’s National Assistant Coach of the Year after leading the 49ers to one of their best seasons in school history.
Outside of Long Beach State, Hildebrand served as the director of The HBC Boys’ Volleyball Club from 2010-16. The HBC 18’s team finished among the top-five in the Open division of the Boys’ Junior National Championships four straight years, including a runner-up showing in 2015.
On the international level, Hildebrand traveled with the U.S. Men’s National Team to Tokyo as the squad’s setting consultant for the 2015 FIVB World Cup. The U.S. went 10-1 over the two-week round robin tournament to win its first World Cup since 1985 and qualify for the 2016 Olympics.
Hildebrand started his coaching career with the Riptides Volleyball Club, where he led his teams to back-to-back gold medals in the 17-Open and 18-Open divisions at the Junior Olympics (2004-05). He saw each of his 11 graduating seniors go on to play for college programs. He also served as an assistant coach for the Golden West College women’s volleyball team (2006) and for the Mater Dei High School boys’ volleyball team (2007). He helped GWC to a fourth-place finish in the state tournament, while Mater Dei reached the semifinals of the CIF playoffs.
A standout student-athlete at the Beach, Hildebrand was a four-year starting setter from 2003-06. He was a three-time AVCA and Volleyball Magazine first-team All-America selection and three-time first-team All-MPSF pick. He was also tabbed the MPSF Freshman of the Year and the AVCA National Newcomer of the Year in 2003. The 49ers reached the MPSF Tournament championship match three years in a row (2004-06), and Hildebrand was a key member of the 2004 squad that advanced to the NCAA finals. As a sophomore, he garnered NCAA all-tournament honors.
The Huskers begin their beach volleyball season in February, and Hunter will coach the team along with Reyes.
Hunter was named a first-team AVCA All-American, the Big Ten Setter of the Year and an All-Big Ten selection for the second time in her career following her 2017 senior season. She received numerous honors from volleyball publications, including National Player of the Year and All-America first-team honors from PrepVolleyball.com and VolleyMob.com. Hunter was also named co-Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Championship with teammate Mikaela Foecke after the Huskers beat Florida in the national title match in 2017.
Hunter earned CoSIDA Academic All-District first-team accolades and was named a semifinalist for the Senior CLASS Award. She ended her career with 4,125 assists, the second-most in Husker history, and she totaled 699 career postseason assists, the highest total in school history. Hunter finished her career with a 16-1 record in the NCAA Tournament as Nebraska’s starting setter, posting the most wins and highest postseason winning percentage by a starting setter in Husker history.
Two Huskers Enter NCAA Transfer Portal
Also on Monday, Cook confirmed two Huskers – sophomore defensive specialist Chen Abramovich and sophomore opposite hitter Anezka Szabo – entered the NCAA transfer portal following the 2019 fall semester.
Abramovich, a native of Kfar Saba, Israel, missed the 2019 season with a foot injury after playing one match as a freshman in 2018. Szabo, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota native who has already announced her intentions to transfer to Kansas, played in 31 matches and had five kills and four blocks in 2019 as a redshirt sophomore. She played in nine matches in 2018 before a season-ending injury and appeared in 14 matches as a freshman on Nebraska’s 2017 NCAA Championship team, notching 15 kills and three blocks.
“I have enjoyed coaching Chen and Nesh these last few years,” Cook said. “Both have worked very hard and been good teammates and student-athletes. We wish Chen and Nesh the best.”