OXFORD, Miss. -- A standout volleyball player at the University of Nebraska and for Team USA, Kayla Banwarth is now a rising star in the coaching ranks and is taking her championship pedigree to Ole Miss, as she was announced as the Rebels' eighth head coach in program history on Saturday by athletics director Keith Carter.
"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. I want to thank deputy AD Lynnette Johnson as well as Chad Chatlos with Ventura Partners for helping us identify Kayla and bring her home to Ole Miss."
Banwarth brings a wealth of success, both on the playing and coaching levels, to Oxford. As a player and assistant coach, she helped guide Nebraska to four conference championships, three Final Four appearances and a national title. Her illustrious career with Team USA garnered eight medals in international competition, including a bronze at the 2016 Olympic games.
"I'm honored to be chosen as the next head coach for the Ole Miss volleyball program," Banwarth said. "I'd like to thank Keith, Lynnette and the rest of the administration for their hospitality and support. I look forward to being a part of the Rebel family and am excited to lead the volleyball team as we work to build a tradition of success."
Banwarth spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach at her alma mater, where she focused on liberos and passers in addition to leading the Huskers' recruiting efforts. She helped direct Nebraska to a national championship in 2017 and a repeat appearance in the title match in 2018.
Last April, Banwarth was named one of the American Volleyball Coaches' Association's 30 Under 30, one of just 11 female coaches in NCAA Division I to be recognized. Before returning to Lincoln, Banwarth served as a volunteer assistant for two seasons for the men's volleyball team at Pepperdine. In her first season in 2015, the squad went 13-11, and she helped lead the Waves' back line to rank 36th nationally with 7.69 digs per set.
Banwarth walked on at Nebraska in 2007, earning the starting libero job midway through her freshman year and maintaining it through her final season in 2010. As a player, she led the Huskers to the NCAA semifinals in 2008 and helped claim three Big 12 Titles. Banwarth left Lincoln as the program's all-time leader in digs with 1,706, a record she held until 2016. She earned All-Big 12 Honorable Mention plaudits in both her junior and senior seasons.
A U.S. National Team libero since 2011, Banwarth helped lead Team USA to an Olympic bronze medal in Rio De Janeiro in 2016 and a FIVB World Championship in 2014. Banwarth was named Team USA's Female Indoor Most Improved Player in 2013, and helped lead the team to back-to-back gold medals at the Pan American Games.
A native of Dubuque, Iowa, Banwarth, 30, earned her bachelor's degree in English from Nebraska in 2012 and is a two-time Big 12 All-Academic selection.