The recruiting tip for one of the Nebraska volleyball team’s impact freshmen can be traced back to the E-Z Stop, a gas station along U.S. 77 in Cortland, a small town about 15 miles south of Lincoln, where farmers stop for coffee and to catch up.
That’s when 6-foot-5 middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach got on the radar of the Nebraska coaches. It’s a unique story, but also a very Nebraskan one, where the volleyball team is a topic of conversation.
This story goes back a few years, because in volleyball many of the best players are making their decisions when they’re sophomores in high school.
The recruiting assist goes to Gene Busboom, the father of Dani Busboom Kelly, who at the time was an assistant volleyball coach for the Huskers. She’s now the head coach at Louisville, and has the Cardinals ranked 24th in her second season.
Gene Busboom heard about Schwarzenbach, and then told Dani about her. It ended up being a good tip, as a few years later Schwarzenbach was the No. 10 ranked recruit in the nation. Now she’s the leading blocker for the Huskers, who are ranked No. 8 in the country going into Friday’s match against No. 7 Penn State.
The path to Schwarzenbach was another farmer, Bryce Bentzinger from Roca. Schwarzenbach is from Kearney, Missouri, and Bentzinger has a daughter who lived there in the same neighborhood as Schwarzenbach.
“She’d told her dad about it, and the word got back to me that this girl is 6-foot-5 and just starting her freshman year and good in sports, so I told Dani about it,” Gene Busboom said.
That’s when Dani Busboom Kelly went to work.
“He’s always told me about random people and recruits that farmers would tell him about, and this one actually stuck, which is pretty funny,” Busboom Kelly said. “So I just looked her up, and my dad is terrible about pronouncing names, so I was trying to figure out who he was even talking about, and then I saw that she was 6-foot-4. I was like, ‘OK, I’ll invite her on a visit,’ and she ends up being one of the top middles in the country.”
Gene Busboom says the coaches would have found out about Schwarzenbach eventually, and he’s probably right. But his tip allowed Nebraska to start recruiting her earlier than most programs, and before she was playing for one of the best club programs in the country in Kansas City. The Huskers were her second scholarship offer, and she committed right away.
Schwarzenbach committed before her sophomore year. She was the first player to commit to the Huskers’ 2018 class, and was soon followed by setter Nicklin Hames.
This summer when Chesney McClellan left Nebraska, the Huskers were down to two middle blockers for this season with Schwarzenbach and Lauren Stivrins. Nebraska needed Schwarzenbach to be good right away, and she has been.
Schwarzenbach has 125 blocks this season, and her average of 1.51 blocks per set ranks eighth in the nation. She’s already earned herself a nickname, with some fans calling her "Schwarzenblock."
Her hitting has been up-and-down, but she’s had some great matches, including a career-high nine kills on an .818 hitting percentage during a win at Illinois.
Nebraska coach John Cook has said a few times this season that if Schwarzenbach figures it out, then watch out.
“I think she has a chance to be a really big-time middle,” Cook said. “She’s already leading the conference in blocking. She’s just got to understand that she can be an offensive force. Who knows? Maybe it happens today, and maybe it’s two years from now, but we’re going to push her to get there.”