New setting nets success for U volleyball duo

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 7, 2012 - 6:57 AM

Santa Clara transfers Dana Knudsen and Alexandra Palmer make immediate contributions.

hide

Minnesota's Alexandra Palmer set the ball up for a spike.

Photo: Marisa Wojcik, Special To The Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

When Dana Knudsen chose to leave her native California to come to Minnesota, she understood the reaction of the many friends who thought she must have lost her mind. A few years earlier, she would have felt the same way.

At age 18, the quintessential California girl could not fathom playing college volleyball outside of her home state. After three years at Santa Clara University, though, Knudsen had changed her outlook. "I needed to get out in the world and see things, be around different kinds of people,'' she said. "And Minnesota was a perfect fit.''

Knudsen committed last January to play her senior season with the Gophers. A few months later, she learned she wasn't alone; Santa Clara teammate Alexandra Palmer, also seeking a change of scenery, decided to join the Gophers as well. The two West Coast expatriates adapted without a hitch, becoming integral members of a Gophers team that will play Purdue on Friday in the NCAA tournament's round of 16.

The 6-3 Knudsen, a middle blocker, is among an array of powerful hitters who give the Gophers plenty of options on offense. Palmer, a 5-7 junior setter, is a gym rat whose skills and savvy have strengthened the Gophers' attack.

Among many new experiences this season -- including buying heavy sweaters -- none has been as gratifying as advancing to the NCAA regional semifinal in West Lafayette, Ind., where the winner of the Gophers-Purdue match will play Penn State or Kentucky on Saturday for a berth in the Final Four.

"Palmer and I both wanted to be great players, and we wanted to win a national championship,'' said Knudsen, from Sacramento, Calif. "In the last year of my college career, I wanted to go out with everything I had. This has been a great experience.''

Palmer hasn't even had time to miss the beach, where she went every day. A native of Laguna Beach, Calif., she averages 10.01 assists per set, ranking eighth in the Big Ten. Her setting has propelled the Gophers to a .301 hitting percentage, fifth-best mark in the nation.

Knudsen is hitting .403 this season and averages 0.89 blocks per set, both second best on the team. She shined in the Gophers' first- and second-round NCAA victories over Liberty and Creighton last weekend, matching her season high with 11 kills and had five blocks against Creighton.

Though Knudsen made the all-West Coast Conference team last season as a junior at Santa Clara, she had developed a desire for travel and adventure. Knudsen, who is pursuing a master's degree in sports administration, said Minnesota offered the ideal combination of academics and athletics. During a campus visit, she clicked with the players and the coaches, but Laura Bush, interim head coach at the time, offered no promises regarding her role.

That was fine with Knudsen, who was looking for coaches who would push her to improve.

Palmer also came in with no assurances and felt the same way.

"I was just thankful for the opportunity,'' said Palmer, who chose the Gophers independently of Knudsen. "I came in with an open mind, just wanting to play the best volleyball I could. I've learned so much.''

Both players ended up starting most matches this season. Knudsen had only 10 weeks to get into game shape after having reconstructive surgery on her ankle last spring, but coach Hugh McCutcheon said she improved her blocking this season and has been eager to embrace the Gophers' system. Palmer loves film sessions and working on the technical details of her position.

Knudsen said she is sad that her time with the Gophers will be brief. But she and Palmer are committed to making their first season outside California last as long as possible.

"We're fortunate to have both of them,'' said Bush, now an associate coach for the Gophers. "We would be a different team without either one.''

  • related content

  • Preview: NCAA volleyball West Lafayette Regional

    Thursday December 6, 2012

    Penn State at a glance: The nation's top-ranked team has won 10 matches in a row and made the NCAA tournament field for the 32nd consecutive year. The Nittany Lions...

  • NCAA VOLLEYBALL

    Regional semifinal: Gophers vs. Purdue, 6 tonight, West Lafayette, Ind.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Latos 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Boston - J. Kelly 6:05 PM
NY Yankees - S. Greene
Detroit - K. Lobstein 6:05 PM
Cleveland - C. Carrasco
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Miami - B. Penny
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Toronto - R. Dickey 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - J. Arrieta
LA Angels - C. Wilson 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 7:10 PM
Minnesota - T. Milone
Texas - D. Holland 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Pittsburgh - J. Locke 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
Colorado - J. Lyles
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Gray
Washington - D. Fister 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw
Arizona - W. Miley 9:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
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 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close