Nebraska volleyball made a big splash in the transfer portal earlier this month when former Minnesota outside hitter and 2022 Big Ten Player of the Year Taylor Landfair announced her commitment to the Huskers.
Landfair recently joined Hurrdat Sports’ Ana Bellinghausen for a Hail Varsity Exclusive to discuss her transfer decision, early impression of Nebraska and much more.
Landfair committed to Minnesota and head coach Hugh McCutcheon out of high school, choosing the Golden Gophers over the Huskers among others. McCutcheon retired from coaching after the 2022 season, however.
Landfair opted to remain at Minnesota under new coach Keegan Cook for the 2023 season and said she was glad she gave the new era of Minnesota volleyball a chance, but it ultimately didn’t click for her in the same way. That led to her entering the portal, and Nebraska was among the teams she contacted.
“I think one of the first few conversations was me just saying ‘Hey, I’m in the transfer portal. I’d really like to find a new school,’” Landfair told Bellinghausen. “Just kind of explaining to them my experience and what I’m looking for in a new program, and I think after I heard what they were saying, and then I was also talking to another school, so just kind of comparing and contrasting about what school works best for me. And then after the few conversations that I had with Nebraska I knew that I wanted to be a Husker.”
Landfair won’t officially become a Husker until she graduates from Minnesota in the spring, but she recently took a visit to Lincoln to spend time with the team and explore her new home.
“It was really fun because I feel like when I was originally recruited, a lot of the stuff looked very familiar, so it was kind of just like a throwback, which was really nice,” Landfair said. “And it was nice to be able to talk to Dennis [Leblanc] and Katie [Jewell], the people in in charge of the academics. So figuring out the academic side of things and then just walking around campus, it’s more of like a realistic type of feeling just because I was recruited by them in high school and then I’m back to where I was recruited.”
Landfair said it was never her intention to leave Minnesota, but with circumstances changing, landing in Lincoln felt like a full-circle moment.
“Just being able to go back to the place where I already talked to them, I know a little bit about them, especially the coaches and the girls, and just being able to kind of have an already memories of Nebraska before I even got to commit was really cool,” Landfair said.
The current Husker Landfair knows best is senior-to-be Lexi Rodriguez as the two played club volleyball together at Sports Performance in Illinois when they were younger.
“Right when I told her that I was going to commit she was so excited,” Landfair said of Rodriguez. “I was talking to her throughout the process, asking her a bunch of questions, kind of getting to know more about Nebraska in terms of the player side of things and just getting an understanding of where she kind of sees Nebraska and see if I fit. So I just ended up going there and I’m so excited to be with her. Going on the visit this past weekend and being able to hang out with her was super, super special and I’m super grateful that I get to play with her again.”
As an intra-conference transfer, Landfair is very familiar with the Nebraska fan base and what it’s like to play at the Devaney Center. Now she’s looking forward to experiencing the Sea of Red in Lincoln as a Husker rather than as a visiting competitor.
“Right when you walk in, it’s just a sea of red,” Landfair said. “All you see is just red, red everywhere, red and white, and it’s so cool. And I feel like the fan base is so special because even after the game, whether we won or lost, they would still come up to me and say ‘you did such a good job, we’re so proud of you, we remember you when you were getting recruited.’ They’re just all so, so nice and I just feel like I’m really excited to kind of be back in that environment where I’m surrounded by a bunch of love and care from so many different people that honestly don’t even know me on a personal level. But having that ability to be able to support me and still love me as a person and as an athlete is super special. So I can’t wait to play for Husker nation.”
Landfair got another taste of the fan base during her visit as she attended a basketball game, which drummed up even more excitement about the prospect of playing in front of Husker fans. Like most of the volleyball world, Landfair also took note from afar of the Volleyball Day in Nebraska spectacle, another show of force from the Nebraska fan base.
“That was crazy,” Landfair said. “When I saw it on Instagram and I saw all the pictures and all the different things the girls were posting, I thought it was so cool and such an honorable moment because it’s taken a while for volleyball to get the recognition that I think it deserves. And so especially for female athletes, I think that it’s really cool that that many people came to watch women’s volleyball. Like, women’s volleyball. That’s absolutely insane to me, and I just hope that we have more opportunities to do that kind of thing and hopefully I get to be a part of one of those.”
In addition to the fan base, one of the things that most enticed Landfair while exploring her options is the talent that already existed on Nebraska’s roster and the level of competition Coach John Cook’s gym would provide, especially at the outside hitter position.
“I’m so excited because I feel like I thrive in more competitive environments and I’m really excited to be able to just compete really hard with a bunch of other talented girls,” Landfair said. “I’m really excited to be pushed and motivated and just be around a bunch of girls that seem like a really good family environment, because I already got that kind of vibe when I was there for my visit.
“I talked to Merritt [Beason] and I talked to Lexi and they both said that their whole program really thrives on that teamwork and making sure that we’re all combined really well and our chemistry and the bond and everything is really, really tight with that team. So I’m really excited to be a part of something like that. I experienced that a lot in high school and I’m excited to get back to that Nebraska.”
While she can’t train with the Huskers during the beach season, Landfair said she is following a workout plan throughout the spring designed to strengthen her Achilles tendon. She’s planning to head to Lincoln immediately after her graduation from Minnesota in mid-May so she can work with the coaches and get acclimated to the university and program before the rest of the team starts to arrive in June.
For more from Landfair, listen to the full conversation below.