Dani Busboom Kelly, the 2021 AVCA East Region Coach of the Year, took the helm of the Louisville staff in late 2016 as the Cardinals’ head coach. She has taken the program to historic heights while the Cardinals remain just as competitive in the classroom.
In 2021, Dani helped Louisville volleyball put together its best season in program history, finishing 32-1 on the year, winning 32 straight games and leading the Cards to their first No. 1 ranking in program history. The Cards stood atop the national stage with Busboom Kelly earning AVCA National Coach of the year after becoming the first woman in NCAA history to coach and undefeated regular season. UofL made its first Final Four appearance in program history with more historic firsts including Tori Dilfer and Anna Stevenson becoming the programs first First-Team All- Americans while Anna DeBeer earned Third-Team recognition after the historic season. The 28-0 regular season marks the first undefeated regular season in program history making Louisville the first team to finish the regular season undefeated since Missouri in 2013. The Cards beat three Top Ten teams in 9 days: No. 6 Purdue, No. 8 Kentucky and No. 6 Nebraska. The win over Kentucky was the first time the two teams clashed while both ranked in the Top 10. The sweep of Nebraska was the first in Lincoln since Wisconsin swept the Huskers on Oct. 5, 2019. The match marked a victory over highest ranked opponent since the Sweet Sixteen win over No. 2 ranked Texas in 2019 and the first win over Nebraska in six meetings. The Cards set a new attendance record of 1,258 for the L&N Arena versus Kentucky.The Cards set a new school volleyball home attendance record at Freedom Hall with 5,917 versus Georgia Tech.
The Cardinals garnered a wealth of ACC honors beginning when eight Cardinals landed on All-ACC teams for their efforts to lead the Cards to the 2021 ACC title. UofL’s Tori Dilfer brought home ACC Setter of the Year honors while Coach Busboom Kelly was named ACC Coach of the Year. When the postseason came around, Tori Dilfer earned Most Outstanding Player of the Regional round of the NCAA Tournament after helping lead Louisville to wins over Florida and Georgia Tech. AVCA Honors included East Region Player of the Year Tori Dilfer; East Region Coach of the Year Dani Busboom Kelly; East All-Region Team Anna DeBeer, Tori Dilfer, Aiko Jones, Elena Scott, Anna Stevenson, and Amaya Tillman as well as East All-Region Team Honorable Mention team member Claire Chaussee. With the wins in the first and second rounds, the Cards notched their sixth 30+ win season.
The 2020 season for Cardinal volleyball stretched eight months, beginning in September and, for the first time, extending into the second semester of the school year. The Cardinals masked up and put together an 15-3 record and won the ACC Championship. UofL earned its highest postseason seeding with a No. 11 ranking going into the 48-team field. A 3-1 win over San Diego gave the Cardinals their sixth overall and second consecutive trip to the Sweet Sixteen. UofL won four of the ACC’s five major honors as senior Tori Dilfer was named Setter of the Year, sophomore middle blocker Amaya Tillman was voted Defensive Player of the Year, outside hitter Anna DeBeer was selected Freshman of the Year and Dani Busboom Kelly was named Coach of the Year. Dilfer, DeBeer, Stevenson and Aiko Jones were named First Team All-ACC and Amaya Tillman was Second Team All-ACC. Louisville placed four players, DeBeer, Dilfer, Aiko Jones and Stevenson, on the AVCA East All-Region Team. Busboom Kelly was named the East Region Coach of the Year and DeBeer won East Region Freshman of the Year. Stevenson was selected as an AVCA Second Team All-American with Dilfer being chosen as an AVCA Third Team All-American. In addition, DeBeer earned AVCA All-American Honorable Mention honors. Stevenson and Dilfer were also selected as members of the US Collegiate National Team. The Cardinals led the nation in blocks per set and led the league in opponent hitting percentage. Louisville also ranked among the top five in the ACC in hitting percentage (second), kills per set (second) and assists per set (second).
In 2019, led by All-American Aiko Jones, Busboom Kelly led the Cardinals to their highest finish in program history, toppling No. 2 Texas in Austin for a trip to the program’s first Elite Eight. UofL, an at-large selection from the ACC, advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after beating Samford in the first round and upsetting intrastate rival Western Kentucky to advance to the Austin Regional. Anna Stevenson joined Jones on the All-ACC list and Jones earned AVCA All-Region honors and was named an HM All-American. Amaya Tillman was named to the ACC All-Freshman Team. The UofL staff landed the No. 17-ranked recruiting class to the squad which includes native Louisvillian Anna DeBeer, who was Kentucky's Ms. Volleyball, and was named the top female athlete in the state of Kentucky by MaxPreps. Busboom Kelly continued to stress academics and the Cards’ hard work paid off as 11 players were named to the ACC Honor Roll, 11 were Red/Black Scholars and five to the prestigious All-ACC Academic team.
In 2018, the Cardinals made their 27th appearance in the NCAA and returned to the national polls with the Cardinals punching in at a high of No. 21 in the AVCA. Busboom Kelly coached the Cards to an RPI of 37 led by UofL’s setter, Wilma Rivera, who was named ACC Setter of the Year and led the conference in assists. Melanie McHenry, Wilma Rivera and Molly Sauer earned First Team All-ACC honors followed by AVCA All-East Region Honors with those three also earning HM All-American status. The Cardinals finished the season at 22-9 and Busboom Kelly and her staff gathered the No. 16 ranked recruiting class in the nation. Piper Roe and Tori Dilfer were named to the US Collegiate National Team, with Roe competed in Anaheim and Dilfer headed to the World University Games in Napoli, Italy. Busboom Kelly was also named to the prestigious College Coaches camp at the Bluegrass Tournament and coached a USAV High Performance team in Ft. Lauderdale.
Picked eighth in the 2017 preseason poll with a first-time coach at the helm, Busboom Kelly and the Cardinals battled their way to an ACC Championships, posting a 24-7 record, going 18-2 in the league. The lightly regarded team ended up winning two of the conference’s major postseason awards with junior setter Wilma Rivera being named as the 2017 ACC Setter of the Year with teammate Molly Sauer picking up her second ACC Defensive Player of the Year award. Louisville outside hitter Melanie McHenry joins Wilma Rivera on the First Team All-ACC winners, with Molly Sauer, Tess Clark, Maggie DeJong and Jasmine Bennett earned Second Team All-ACC kudos. Rivera was named as an AVCA honorable mention All American with Busboom Kelly taking the AVCA East Region Coach of the Year honor. McHenry and Rivera were both named to the AVCA All-East Region teams. The Cards caught the eye of USA Volleyball as Amanda Green and Molly Sauer both earned a berth on the US Collegiate National Team and toured Europe and China respectively and Busboom Kelly was named the head coach of the USCNT-Europe Tour where she led them to gold in the European Global Challenge. Her commitment to excellence in the classroom paid off as six Cardinals were named to the Academic All-ACC team.
She came to Louisville after a stint on the staff of her alma mater. After being named assistant coach at Nebraska in 2012, for five seasons the Huskers have achieved a combined 134-30 record. The Huskers reached four NCAA Regional finals and won the 2015 NCAA National Championship at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the same facility where she won the national title as a player for the Huskers in 2006.
The 2016 Nebraska team finished the regular season with a 27-2 overall record, won the Big Ten Conference Championship and was the nation’s No. 1-ranked team.
Prior to her stint at Nebraska, she spent one season as an assistant at Louisville in 2011, Busboom Kelly helped the Cardinals to a 24-9 record including a trip to the semifinals of the Big East Conference Tournament with the Cardinals advancing to the second round of the NCAA. Prior to her time at Louisville, Busboom Kelly was an assistant coach at Tennessee from 2009 to 2011. While working with the Volunteers, she guided the team’s setters, coordinated travel and equipment needs and ran the school’s volleyball camps.
“I was incredibly humbled to be named the head coach at Louisville volleyball as I’ve always considered Louisville one of the top athletic departments in the country,” said Busboom Kelly. Louisville has become my second home and knowing this university's commitment to all the programs made this opportunity a dream come true.”
Busboom Kelly (pronounced Bus-boom) joined head coach John Cook’s staff in July of 2012 and where she assisted with Nebraska’s setters, liberos and outside hitters, as well as recruiting.
In a storied program at Nebraska, Busboom Kelly has coached two AVCA All-Americans and two honorable-mention selections in 2015. Kadie Rolfzen was a first-team AVCA All-American, while libero Justine Wong-Orantes was a third-team selection for the first time, as well as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. The Huskers’ 2015 recruiting class was ranked fifth in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com. Setter Kelly Hunter and outside hitter Mikaela Foecke earned All-American honorable mention, and Foecke was the NCAA National Championship most outstanding player, just the third freshman in NCAA Division I Volleyball history to earn the honor. In 2015, Nebraska setter Kelly Hunter was third in the nation in assists while Justine Wong-Orantes was second in the Big Ten in digs per set and moved to No. 4 in school history in career digs.
Busboom Kelly has also helped oversee implementation of the Huskers’ beach volleyball program. After starting the program in 2013, the Huskers turned a 7-7 dual record through the first two seasons into a 6-2 record in 2015. Both losses in 2015 came to the nation’s top-two teams.
In 2014 on the court, the Huskers reached their third straight regional final with the youngest team in school history and while playing the second-toughest schedule in the nation. With only one senior, NU finished 23-10, upsetting No. 3 Washington in Seattle to advance to the regional final. Senior setter Mary Pollmiller finished her Husker career with AVCA honorable-mention All-America and All-North Region honors, and she was an All-Big Ten honorable-mention pick. Sophomore libero Justine Wong-Orantes recorded a team-high 464 digs on the season and averaged 3.85 digs per set, seventh in the Big Ten. She became the first Husker in school history to lead the team in digs as both a freshman and sophomore.
In 2013, Busboom Kelly helped guide a young Husker squad to a 26-7 record, second-place finish in the Big Ten Conference and a berth in the NCAA Lincoln Regional final. Nebraska opened in a rotation featuring all first-or second-year Huskers in 29 of its 33 mmatches in 2013. She helped train the Husker defensive specialists and liberos, a group that included three true freshmen, to one of Nebraska’s most successful recent passing and defensive campaigns. Wong-Orantes led the Huskers defensively and tied the single-season school record for digs by a freshman. Busboom Kelly also helped train Pollmiller as Nebraska’s setter in 2013, as Pollmiller guided the Huskers to a successful offensive campaign in her first season as NU’s setter.
Busboom Kelly helped the Huskers to a berth in the NCAA regional finals and a second-place finish in the Big Ten Conference in 2012. The Huskers posted a 26-7 mark while earning their 31st straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. In addition, Lauren Cook, Gina Mancuso and Hannah Werth all earned AVCA All-America honors. The Huskers also posted four All-Big Ten picks and seven academic All-Big Ten accolades.
As an athlete, Busboom Kelly was a captain at Nebraska and moved from setter to libero in 2006 to help Nebraska’s defense and finished her career as one of only two players to rank among NU’s all-time leaders in both digs (1,281, second) and assists (2,873, eighth). She was a four-year starter for Cook, guiding NU to a 124-10 record, the best four-year mark in school history, three Big 12 titles, two NCAA finals appearances and a national title in 2006.
Busboom Kelly was considered the Big 12’s best libero in 2006, as she helped NU limit opponents to a Big 12-low .144 hitting percentage. She set Nebraska’s single-season digs record (580) in her first year as a libero, breaking the previous mark of 480 by Amanda McCormick in 2004. As a senior she reached double figures in digs in 32 of 34 matches, including 21 straight matches with at least 10 digs. She notched her best defensive performance at the NCAA semifinals against UCLA, totaling a career-high 29 digs, which still ranks as the second-best postseason performance in school history.
An outstanding student, Busboom Kelly was a 2006 second-team academic All-District VII selection, while earning six Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll accolades and becoming a three-time first-team academic All-Big 12 honoree. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Nebraska in 2007.
Following her graduation, Busboom Kelly spent time with the U.S. Women’s National Training Team before working as a sales representative for an Omaha insurance company. She coached the Team USA A2 Select team and was a member of the 2007 USA Training Roster, where she played with former UofL standout Sarah Drury Petkovic. She has worked as a sideline reporter for radio broadcasts of Nebraska volleyball matches on the Husker Sports Network and also as an assistant coach with USA Volleyball’s Select A2 Program.
Dani and her husband, former Nebraska football player Lane Kelly were married in the summer of 2010.