As much as Katie Loberg wanted to play last weekend, she found that watching her Gophers teammates from the bench was pretty entertaining, too. The senior forward still was recovering from an arthroscopic procedure on one of her knees as the team opened its season with a pair of victories in the Best Buy Classic, earning one in double overtime and one in a romp.
Loberg will be ready to play Saturday when the Gophers face Ohio University in the Subway Classic at Williams Arena. At the start, she will be on the bench. While Loberg was sidelined, junior Micaella Riche solidified her claim as the Gophers' starter in the post, finishing the Best Buy Classic with 49 points and 20 rebounds.
Being a reserve is an unfamiliar position for Loberg, who started 52 of 60 games over the past two seasons. Still, Loberg said she is ready to fill whatever role may fall to her on a team she believes is loaded with potential.
"Dealing with an injury is a different kind of adversity to face," said Loberg, who missed three weeks of practice after a piece of torn meniscus was removed from her knee. "But I'll do what I can for the team, whether I'm coming off the bench or starting.
"This is a fun group to play with. Everyone is positive and hard-working and brings something different. I see us coming together pretty quickly, and I'm ready to come back."
Last season, the 6-4 Loberg led the Gophers with a career-high 201 rebounds and 30 blocked shots and averaged 9.1 points per game. She said she worked on her outside shot over the summer and improved her athleticism. Her primary role, she said, is likely to revolve around defense: rebounding, blocking shots and wearing out opponents in the post.
Gophers coach Pam Borton has been eagerly awaiting Loberg's return. Borton isn't certain whether Loberg is destined for a long-term role off the bench, but she is glad to have her experience and ability back in the lineup.
"Micaella has really taken advantage of a great opportunity," said Borton, who noted that Loberg's first priority will be to regain her conditioning. "We're still working with lineups in practice, and we're still working on team chemistry. We're looking to put more solid minutes together as a team [this weekend] and be more consistent."