A Waverly-Shell Rock student-athlete is among four Iowa high school seniors who have signed letters of intent to play volleyball for the UNI Panthers, Head Coach Bobbi Petersen announced on Tuesday (Nov. 17, 2015).

Abbi Staack (Waverly/Waverly-Shell Rock), Kate Busswitz (Cedar Rapids/Prairie), Kate Cassabaum (Nevada), and Karlie Taylor (Eddyville/Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont) are each planning to become a part of the Panther volleyball tradition beginning with the 2016 season.

"We are extremely excited about our 2016 recruiting class and look forward to what these four student athletes will bring to our program," Petersen said. "Each is an incredible athlete, with great work ethic, a hunger to compete and have a high commitment to academics, all of which are important to our program. We are thrilled to have each of them and their families become members of the UNI Panther volleyball program."


Abbi Staack – Defensive Specialist
Staack helped Waverly-Shell Rock to the 2015 Class-4A state tournament and a mark of 42-10. Heading into the state tournament, Staack had 1,492 career digs and a .943 service reception percentage. Staack led the Go-Hawks to a pair of Northeast Iowa Conference crowns in 2013 and 2015 for head coach Eavon Woodin. She earned first-team all-league honors in 2014 and 2015.

Abbi Staack / Photo By: Elwin Huffman - Waterloo Broadcasting

Staack is a member of the National Honor Society and A-Honor Roll. She also lettered in soccer, where she helped the Go-Hawks to the 2014 state tournament. Staack played club volleyball for Six Pack (2011-2012) and CIA (2013-2015). She was selected to the 2015 Iowa Girls Coaches Association (IGCA) all-star team.

Staack plans to major in communication arts with a web design emphasis. She is the daughter of Jerrod and Kari Staack.

"Abbi is also a versatile athlete and will bring so much to our team," Petersen said. "Abbi is someone that knows the game of volleyball, has great body control, solid skills and knows how to compete.

"Abbi has played defense and been a primary passer at a high level. She has great platform control and reads the game well. She has great instincts on the court and that along with her skill set and work ethic will make her a great asset to our program."


Kate Busswitz – Middle Hitter
Busswitz was named the Mississippi Division Player of the Year in Mississippi Valley Conference in 2015. She earned first-team all-conference and all-metro honors as both a junior and a senior. Busswitz tallied second-team all-state recognition in 2014. She helped lead Cedar Rapids Prairie High School to a division title in 2015 and conference runner-up status for coaches Lynette Stecklein and Ashten Stelken.

Busswitz is an honor roll student who played club volleyball for Cedar Rapids Prairie Volleyball Club, Six Pack and CIA. She was selected to the 2015 IGCA all-star team.

Busswitz is the daughter of Kris and Keith Hartgrave. She is undecided on a major at UNI.

"Kate is a very athletic middle blocker that will add size and quickness to that position," Petersen said. "She is not only a big presence at the net, but has a great jump that will allow her to be very effective both offensively as an attacker and defensively as a blocker. She moves well laterally, has a fast arm and presses well on the block. We also feel she is the type of attacker that will be able to attack any area of the net and at any tempo."


Kate Cassabaum – Middle Hitter/Outside Hitter
Cassabaum helped lead to Nevada High School to the 2015 Class-3A state championship. She was named to the 3A state tournament all-tournament team after guiding the Cubs to a 33-9 mark as a senior.

She took part in three state tournaments as the Cubs qualified in 2013, 2014 and 2015. She is a three-time first-team all-Heart of Iowa Conference honoree.

Cassabaum earned letters in volleyball, basketball and soccer for the Cubs. She earned second-team all-state honors in basketball in 2014. She then tallied first-team all-state status after helping Nevada to the 2015 girls state basketball championship. She was selected to the 2015 IGCA all-star team. She played club volleyball for CIA. She is the daughter of Steve an Michelle Cassabaum. She plans to major in biology at UNI.

"Kate also brings athleticism to our program and has competed at a high level in multiple sports in high school," Petersen said. "She has been a big contributor to teams that have done well in volleyball, basketball and soccer. This experience will assist her in her ability to train as a Division I athlete.

"Kate has the potential to make an impact in multiple positions for our program. She is a versatile athlete that we feel could compete in the middle or either pin. Attacking at any tempo and zone and her quick lateral movement are qualities that will be an assist her in competing at a high level."


Karlie Taylor – Outside Hitter
Taylor guided the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont Rockets to three consecutive Class-2A state tournaments. She is a four-time first-team all-conference performer, earning all-state honors in 2013 and 2014. She set the 2A state tournament record for kills (33 in 2013) and digs (34 in 2014) in a match.

Taylor earned third-place honors in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2015 state track meet and qualified for the Drake Relays in the 100-meter hurdles in 2015. She was a member of the 2014 state champion shuttle hurdle relay team and helped her sprint medley relay team place sixth at the 2014 state track meet.

Taylor played club volleyball for CIS in 2011-2013 and CIA in 2014-2016. She was selected to the 2015 IGCA all-star team.

Taylor plans to major in elementary education at UNI. She is the daughter of Tom and Robin Taylor.

"Karlie comes in as an athlete who has the potential to play six rotations for our program," Petersen said. "She is a multi-sport athlete and has been able to excel in multiple sports throughout her high school years. She is also very athletic, loves to compete and has a lot of experience on the court.

Her ball control and defense are strong and also has potential to be a primary passer. Offensively, she is explosive and powerful and already has a strong arsenal that we look forward to adding to throughout her years as a Panther. She has a good feel for the game which will help contribute to her success as a college competitor."