Familiar Name Brings 4-1 Long Beach Into Lincoln On Saturday

By Lincoln Arneal

Tyler Hildebrand only spent three seasons at Nebraska across two stints, but his impact on the current Huskers looms large. 

He was an assistant coach on the 2017 national champion team and returned for the two seasons during the 2021 calendar year, culminating with a national title match appearance last December. 

Senior setter Nicklin Hames said Hildebrand changed her career trajectory, and she owes him a lot of credit for all her success. She significantly changed her technique and style during her first year. 

“I don’t think I could have made the changes I did without him,” Hames said. “I owe a lot to Tyler. (He’s) one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever had and someone I really look up to and respect tremendously.” 

However, those warm feelings may have to be set aside for a few hours this weekend when Hildebrand returns to Nebraska as the Long Beach State head coach. “The Beach” will take on No. 2 Nebraska at 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Devaney Center. 

LBSU has started the season 4-1, with its only loss coming in five sets against No. 18 Oregon. Long Beach has wins over Oregon State and Notre Dame.

MVB Tyler Hildebrand 71
Tyler Hildebrand

Hames said she is a little nervous because Hildebrand knows the Huskers (6-0) and all their tendencies well. She expects Long Beach to have a good defensive plan for NU. 

Hames said she still stays in contact with Hildebrand and texted him a couple of hours before her interview on Monday. She’s watched Long Beach play a few times this year and has been impressed. 

“You can see Tyler’s coaching style all over his team,” she said. “So that’s pretty cool to see. But I’m excited to have him back in Lincoln for a game.”

Callie Schwarzenbach will also make a return to Nebraska with LBSU. Schwarzenbach played four years at Nebraska before transferring for her final season. She even played in the spring exhibition with the Huskers before graduating in May. 

Schwarzenbach is off to a strong start this season. The 6-foot-5 middle blocker is averaging 1.48 kills per set while hitting .406, both of which are career bests and a block per set.

Senior Kenzie Knuckles said she’s excited to see her former coach and teammate this weekend. 

“Tyler built a lot of what we had last year with just his presence and who he is as a human,” she said. “I know that emotional connection he has with all the players is super strong, so we’re really excited to see him.”

NU coach John Cook said when Hildebrand returned to Nebraska as the associate head coach, he planned to stay a long time. However, when his alma mater came calling in the offseason, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. 

Hildebrand was a four-year starting setter for Long Beach and is still the program’s career leader in assists. 

He compared Hildebrand’s sudden departure to when he was a head coach at Wisconsin and almost led the Badgers to the final four but was approached after the season to return to Nebraska, where he was an assistant coach. 

“That’s the dream job,” Cook said. “I had a connection here and always wanted to come back here, and I think he’s got a really strong connection at Long Beach. So I think it was a great opportunity for him and they really wanted him.”

Cook said working with Hildebrand made him a better coach.

“He’s an exceptional coach. I’ve said that many, many times,” he said. “Now he’s getting to run his own program, which is great, and he’s doing a heck of a job.”

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