Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.


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Tori Dixon's versatility gives her Olympic chance

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: November 5, 2013 - 1:35 PM

Hugh McCutcheon and David Dixon are native New Zealanders. McCutcheon came to the United States in 1991 to play volleyball at Brigham Young. Dixon came to the States in 1988 to play at Ricks College, a Mormom-affiliated junior college in Rexburg, Idaho.

McCutcheon played pro volleyball in Japan and Finland, before getting started on a coaching career in which he led to the U.S. men's team to a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics and the U.S. women's team to a silver medal in the 2012 Olympics.

Dixon went to Arizona State after two years at Ricks and was taken at No. 232 overall by New England in the 1992 draft. Eventually, the 6-foot-5, 340-pound guard became a long-term starter for the Vikings, and settled here with his wife Pam to raise a family.

McCutcheon is now in his second year as coach the Gophers. Dixon's daughter Tori gained most of her father's height -- she's a 6-foot-3 senior -- and is the star middle blocker for the Gophers.

"Dave's great,'' McCutcheon said. "We talk a lot, but not so much about volleyball. We have the New Zealand thing going, of course.''

There will be a column in the Star Tribune print edition. The editors gave me a generous amount of space to use on the subject and I exceeded it (which isn't a first). McCutcheon returned a call on Tuesday morning after I already had offered too much prose for print, which is why we call this thing Patrick +.

Here's what the coach had to say about Tori Dixon:

"She's a stud. She's physical. She always has been that. She has made herself more efficient. She has more range; she's hitting with more power. She has added quite a few strings to her bow.

"What makes Tori different than most middles of her stature is that she can play the whole game. She can dig; she can serve. She can play anywhere on the court.''

Tori was one of three college players invited to USA Volleyball's national team camp in July. The national team is largely a veteran group and it would be quite an upset if Dixon could earn her way on the 12-woman Olympic team that will be in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

McCutcheon's exceptional history with USA Volleyball gave him a chance to put in a good word for Dixon with the decisionmakers there, including his replacement as the women's coach, Karch Kiraly.

"I talked to people, obviously, but Tori earned the right to be with the national team on her own,'' McCutcheon said. "All the people with the national team are talented, talented individuals. They are all studs.

"One thing about international play: There are only six subs [per set] and that's a hige advantage for Tori. Because of her versatility, she doesn't have to be susbstituted out of the game, as is the case with many blockers.''

Another plus: Ashley Wittman and Dixon have been teammates through youth volleyball, with the Northern Lights club team and through four seasons with the Gophers. Wittman was asked for a quote on Tori and this was her response:

"We've known each other for most of our lives and she's one of my best friends. Playing together for 10 years, we also live together here on campus. We've had a great time and we're very comfortable with each other both on and off the court.''

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