After Karen Dahlgren Schonewise completed her redshirt freshman season with the Nebraska volleyball team, former NU coach Terry Pettit asked her to write down what she hoped to achieve with the Huskers. The list Schonewise came up with, in Pettit's eyes, wasn't good enough.
"He told me I'd already achieved everything I'd written down," Schonewise said. "I really had no concept of where I fit in with that team, so that was a very important moment for me."
Schonewise had been a three-sport star at Bertrand High School, earning All-Nebraska honors in volleyball and basketball while winning state titles in the 100-meter low hurdles in 1981 and 1982.
But she was tall and skinny when she joined the Huskers, and Schonewise spent her first year on campus lifting weights and shagging volleyballs. She left Nebraska a two-time All-American who vitalized the program and revolutionized the college game.
Schonewise is believed to be the first college player to run the slide play — which has a middle blocker make a quick shift to the outside for an attack. Schonewise learned the play while competing for the U.S. junior national team in Europe and brought it back to Nebraska. It’s common to see college teams run the play today.
"Teams had no idea how to defend it," Pettit said.
Schonewise helped Nebraska reach its first national title game in 1986 and won the Honda-Broderick Award, the Heisman Trophy of volleyball, in 1987. She became one of the best blockers in school history and holds school records for solo blocks in a season (46) and a career (132).
After graduating from Nebraska, Schonewise played professionally in the short-lived Major League Volleyball and was the first pick in the league's first draft in 1986. After her playing career, she became the coach at Kansas from 1994 to '97, going 34-86.
Schonewise's jersey was retired by Nebraska in 1988, making her one of the first to receive that honor. She was inducted into the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.
Current Husker coach John Cook credits Schonewise for putting Nebraska volleyball on the map.
"She proves you can dream big," Cook said.
Played for: Bertrand High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, U.S. junior national team, Major League Volleyball's Minnesota Monarchs and New York Liberty
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Beatrice native Enid Schonewise, Dahlgren's volleyball teammate at NU. "I always wanted to race against her in high school, but we were in different classes." Dahlgren is married to Enid Schonewise's brother, Quintin, who played football at Kansas.
Best moment as an athlete: "I'm not sure there was one. I just loved practice. Games are fun, but practice allows you to work on the things you need to do to get better."
At Nebraska: 132 solo blocks, 1,121 kills, .386 hitting percentage
Dahlgren Schonewise was No. 40 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »