Gophers' volleyball preparations in good hands

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2012 - 11:52 AM

The Gophers aren't missing a beat with Laura Bush filling in for coach Hugh McCutcheon.

From the outside, it seems strange: a team starting the season without its head coach. But among the inside ranks of the Gophers volleyball team, everything is simply business as usual, players and interim coach Laura Bush say.

"The team has really maintained a steady, straight course," said Bush, who stepped in as the interim coach at the beginning of last year. She's maintaining that role for the beginning of the 2012 season until permanent head coach Hugh McCutcheon returns after leading the U.S. women's Olympic volleyball team to a silver medal at the London Olympic Games. His arrival is expected soon, but no date has been set. Bush will stay on as an assistant when he arrives.

In the meantime, the season opens Saturday with a doubleheader at the James Madison Classic in Harrisonburg, Va. The Gophers will play James Madison in the morning and Appalachian State in the later match. The Gophers are ranked No. 16 nationally after losing three key players to graduation. But they return a solid core from a team that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 last season before falling to Iowa State.

Returning All-America juniors Ashley Wittman (outside hitter) and Tori Dixon (middle blocker) as well as consistent senior outside hitter Katherine Harms will root a team that welcomes two transfers and five freshman. Minnesota has more depth than last season, which has fostered a competitive atmosphere as players vie for spots.

"It's very competitive all around the board," said Dixon, who along with Wittman was named pre-season All-Big Ten for the second consecutive season. "No one spot is completely guaranteed because we have so many options and different things the coaches are trying."

Most notable, perhaps, are the battles at libero -- the defensive specialist role vacated when Jessica Granquist graduated last season -- and at setter. The libero spot likely will go to one of three freshmen: Kalysta White, Lindsey Lawmaster or Morgan Bohl. Meanwhile, the only returning setter on the roster is senior Mia Tabberson, but freshman Karyn Israel and Santa Clara transfer Alexandra Palmer provide interesting options.

Even if McCutcheon isn't there yet, the Gophers start the season with a year of experience in several aspects of the system he plans to run at Minnesota, using more aggressive serving techniques and changing to swing-blocking, which takes time to learn properly. Last season, the Gophers were outblocked in many matches because the style was so new.

"We'd never done that before," Wittman said. "It was definitely hard because none of us were used to it, so that was a huge change in our game ... but I think we benefited from it."

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Cincinnati 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Baltimore 5
Boston 9 Bottom 9th Inning
NY Yankees 3
Detroit 1 Bottom 8th Inning
Cleveland 2
NY Mets - WP: J. Niese 8 FINAL
Miami - LP: B. Penny 6
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 4 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: M. Minor 0
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 8 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 2
Milwaukee 1 Top 7th Inning
Chicago Cubs 7
LA Angels 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Houston 7
Chicago WSox 3 Bottom 7th Inning
Minnesota 3
Texas 1 Top 8th Inning
Kansas City 1
Pittsburgh 2 Top 7th Inning
St. Louis 5
San Francisco 1 Top 6th Inning
Colorado 7
Seattle 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Oakland 0
Washington 0 Top 2nd Inning
Los Angeles 0
Arizona 0 Top 2nd Inning
San Diego 0
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
Cincinnati 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
NY Giants 9/8/14 6:10 PM
Detroit
San Diego 9/8/14 9:20 PM
Arizona
Miami-Florida 13 FINAL
(25) Louisville 31
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(19) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(18) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(23) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Washington
(14) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(13) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(15) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(7) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(17) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(21) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(12) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(16) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(9) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(21) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(8) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(11) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 25 2nd Qtr 8:25
Phoenix 32
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2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
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