MARSHALL, MINN. – The Honda Collegiate Women's Sports Awards were held on June 24 at the Galen Center on the University of Southern California campus. The awards for 2018-19 were honoring athletes from a dozen NCAA Division I sports, and single athletes from Division II and III.
Chris Voelz has been the executive director since 2012. Voelz was the driven and controversial women's athletic director at the University of Minnesota from 1988 to 2002.
In retrospect, we must say Voelz fought with great feistiness for the cause of what's become a terrific women's athletic program at Minnesota. And there's now evidence that Voelz remains a Gopher at heart.
Taylor Reiss, a volleyball star at Southwest Minnesota State, was asked this week if she had talked with Voelz at the Honda Awards.
Reiss smiled and said: "Yes, I did. All the athletes filled out a short bio, and mine included the information that Penn State was my favorite team to watch … and Megan Hodge [PSU, 2006-2009] was my favorite player.
"Chris Voelz congratulated me, and added that she was disappointed to see that I was a Penn State fan growing up more than a Gophers fan."
Reiss' four-year career for the Mustangs ended last November, with a five-set loss to their mighty Northern Sun rivals, Concordia (St. Paul), in the NCAA tournament. It also ended with Reiss being named the Division II National Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Terry Culhane, a volleyball coaching pioneer in this area, is now starting his 16th season at Southwest Minnesota State.
Culhane said that, even at 5-foot-8, Reiss could have been a hitter at several Big Ten and Big 12 schools. "We were fortunate she really only looked at two schools — us and South Dakota State,'' he said.
Reiss signed with Division I SDSU and then there was a coaching change. She stayed only a few days at preseason camp. Reiss joined Megan Larson, her close friend and setter at Minneota, and then a sophomore at SMSU.
A good time was had by all. "And every honor Taylor has received — those were deserved," Larson said.
Read Reusse's blog at startribune.com/patrick.
More notes from the prairie:
• Culhane's first coaching jobs were basketball and volleyball at Milroy (then Tracy-Milroy) and his superstar was Mary Jo Miller. Mary Jo's husband, Chris Hmielewski, is Culhane's boss as SMSU's athletic director.
• Reiss was a 5-8 center and Larson a 5-9 forward on Minneota's 2013 state Class 1A champions in girls' basketball.
• Reiss and Kathryn Plummer, Stanford's 6-foot-6 volleyball star, spent some time together at the Honda Awards. "I came up to here on her,'' Reiss said, pointing to her collarbone.