When middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord visited Nebraska after entering the transfer portal last December, she knew it was the place for her. Hord canceled all her other visits and committed to the Huskers.
“It just kind of felt right,” Hord said on a recent episode of Sports Nightly. “I was actually hanging out with the girls and just loved seeing them interact, and I was like ‘Guys? Is it OK if I come here?’ They were like, ‘Yeah,’ and then we all started jumping up and down, so it was super awesome. I just had to act on it.”
Hord spent four years at Penn State University and graduated with a degree in communication arts and sciences. In her senior year, Hord recorded 1.40 blocks per set. She led her team in blocks during both her junior and sophomore year and started all 33 games her sophomore season and all 16 her junior season. Hord also received four All-America awards since 2018.
Volleyball wasn’t Hord’s first passion though. She originally played basketball growing up, following in her dad’s footsteps. Derrick Hord had been a third round NBA draft pick for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1983.
When Kaitlyn decided to try out for volleyball in high school instead of continuing to pursue basketball, her dad had to warm-up to the idea.
“He definitely didn’t take it well, she said. “He was a little mad, but I think once he saw how much in love with volleyball I was, he was kind of like, ‘Yeah, this makes sense.’”
Hord tried other sports thanks to her father too. She did karate for six years because her dad thought it would help with footwork in other sports.
Hord also picked up her goal mindset from her dad.
“He always taught me think about your goals either before you go to bed or when you wake up,” Hord said. “So, I still do that.”
The experience with other sports also paid off, just as Hord’s father expected. Basketball, for example, helped Hord on the volleyball court.
“I think it’s helped my lateral movement because there’s a lot of shuffling in basketball,” Hord said. “I think that’s one of my better skills in volleyball, is I’m able to move one side or the other a lot faster or smoother than some others.”
The switch wasn’t easy, but Hord said volleyball clicked for her during her sophomore year of high school.
“It was actually my first club coach. She said something. She’s like, ‘You have the chance to go to the Olympics if you keep at this,”’ Hord said. “I was like, ‘Man, I just started, and she said that.’ That kind of clicked in me and I was like, ‘How high of a level can I really get to?’”
Hord said that getting to play volleyball at Penn State was a dream come true. She learned about giving her best effort from her time playing under Russ Rose, who recently retired as the Nittany Lions’ head coach after 43 years.
However, Hord aspires to play overseas. Before she could follow that dream, she said she needed to remind herself why she loves playing volleyball, which led to her entering the transfer portal and coming to Nebraska.
“I really want to fall in love with the sport again,” Hord said. “That’s a main goal for myself.”
When looking for her next school, there was something about Nebraska that stood out for Hord. Growing up, she had said she would never play for a school with red as a color. When she was looking at schools in the transfer portal, she decided to put away that mindset and look at all her options.
“This was a more mature decision, and I had things I was specifically looking for. Nebraska checked all those boxes,” Hord said.
Even before starting her search, Hord had Nebraska in the back of her mind. She had played as an opponent at Devaney and watched Nebraska at the Final Four tournament in Minneapolis.
“I won’t lie, I actually was at the Final Four tournament,” Hord said. “Seeing Nebraska play and seeing just how genuine their reactions were after every play, how excited they got for each other, that definitely sparked something in me.”
While Nebraska has been a big change, Hord said it has been a good change. During her visit, Hord said everyone felt genuine and that feeling led her to commit to Nebraska.
“It’s been awesome just getting to know the girls all over again from a different perspective,” Hord said. “They’re no longer the ‘enemies’ anymore. They’re my teammates now.”