Patrick Reusse: New Gophers volleyball coach passes eye test

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 11, 2012 - 10:38 PM

Hugh McCutcheon showed his first Gophers squad enough in a failed Olympic gold medal bid to fire the team up for the fall season.


Gophers volleyball players cheered Saturday at the Sports Pavilion as the U.S. team, led by first-year Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon, won the first set against Brazil in the Olympic final. But the excitement faded as the Brazilians swept the next three sets, forcing McCutcheon’s squad to settle for silver.

Photo: Bruce Bisping, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Big-time volleyball programs have a short spring season as well as the elongated regular season that stretches from late August to the NCAA tournament that starts in late November. The Gophers didn't have much activity last spring, with only eight players on the roster.

One of those players left, leading to a roster of seven returnees and seven newcomers (five freshmen, two transfers) for the 2012 season.

"It's unusual to have so many new players," senior setter Mia Tabberson said. "This is a very young team by Minnesota's standards."

And melding the veterans with the newcomers is not the No. 1 transition facing these Gophers:

Laura Bush was the interim coach in 2011, when the Gophers won two NCAA tournament games and reached the final 16. She also was the coach in the spring and has started drills in that capacity this month.

Soon, Bush will move back to her previous assignment as an assistant coach to make room for Hugh McCutcheon, the coach of the U.S. Olympic women's team. In an inspired hire, former athletic director Joel Maturi was able to announce in February 2011 that McCutcheon had agreed to coach the Gophers.

The stipulation was that he would complete his duties as the Olympic coach in London before taking over at Minnesota.

McCutcheon had a brief meeting with players when he came to the campus in 2011 to sign his contract. Asked her impression, Tabberson said: "I've never met him. The one weekend he was here, I was home in Indiana, watching my brother in the state swim meet."

On Saturday, McCutcheon's squad was the favorite to give the United States a first gold medal in women's volleyball. The opponent was Brazil, the mercurial group that had defeated the U.S. for the gold medal four years earlier in Beijing.

NBC had decided to tape-delay the match for prime time -- which, I'm told, was not a first in these Olympics.

The Gophers wanted to see McCutcheon on the sideline. They wanted to see former Gophers great Lindsey Berg. They wanted to see all the American heroes for this generation of collegians.

The option was used to ship the live telecast from a computer to the big screen in their team room at the Sports Pavilion. The match started at 12:30 p.m. in the Twin Cities, and the early evidence was that this would be a festive 90 minutes or so.

The first set was a 25-11 blowout for the Americans. And then a strange thing happened: The No. 1-rated Yanks started allowing Brazil's outside hitters to blast away. They were a sorry match for Brazil when it came to digging out kill attempts, and they started serving as efficiently as Dwight Howard shoots free throws.

Brazil rolled through the next three sets and repeated as the Olympic champion.

Asked how a momentum swing such as Saturday's occurs in this game, Tabberson said: "Volleyball is a game of momentum. And it can revolve around one ball -- a huge kill, a miraculous dig, a bad mistake. Suddenly, the confidence goes to the other side, and you need big energy to get it back."

Tabberson's most memorable moment as a Gopher was a match against mighty Penn State late in the 2010 regular season.

"They beat us badly in the first set, and beat us in a closer set in the second, and it looked like a quick night," Tabberson said. "And then we won the third, and the fourth. We had a big crowd, and it was so loud in here [Sports Pavilion] in the fifth set, and we finally beat them 21-19, something like that ..."

Tabberson smiled and said: "That was a great night for momentum."

Not in London on Saturday. The Gophers had to sit glumly as Brazil put away their new coach's team.

Tori Dixon was a freshman in 2010 when Mike Hebert, the coach who turned the Gophers into a big-time program, announced his retirement.

"We were kind of hoping that someone at the university might talk to Hugh McCutcheon about the job," Dixon said. "He was married to Wiz [Liz Bachman], and she was from here, and we thought, 'Maybe there's a chance.'"

And now that it's about to become a reality? "Laura has handled the transition very well," Dixon said. "Now, it's going to be great to have him here."

Junior Ashley Wittman said the McCutcheon system is a fast-paced, attacking style. "We've been using his system since he was announced as coach," she said. "It's a system where you go from defense to offense quickly. And we've gotten better at it. We're playing faster than we were a year ago."

The Gophers weren't sure on Saturday when McCutcheon will take over. They are sure they can't wait.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. •

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 78 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 62 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
St Marys-CA 64
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question