Wittman Highlighted In Faces of the Big Ten

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Have you watched any of the Big Ten Network broadcasts featuring your favorite team? You may have recognized Gopher Volleyball's Ashley Wittman as one of the 'Faces of the Big Ten' ads. Wittman, a senior captain with the Gophers has done countless hours of volunteering, a multiple Academic All-Big Ten selection and a member of the Gophers' Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Take a look at this video.

Gopher Volleyball Promotional Items for Big Ten Week

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Go Gophers! MN_IND
Go Gophers!
Gopher Volleyball is preparing to kick off its Big Ten season, this week and what better time to do it then Minnesota's Homecoming week. Here's some of the upcoming promotional events for the Indiana (Sept. 25) and Purdue (Sept. 29) matches. All promotions must be purchased prior to the day of the event. For more information, contact the Gopher Marketing Office (gsm@umn.edu) or check out MyGopherSports.com for tickets.

Indiana Match (Big Ten Network)
* Wild Wednesdays (General Admission Tickets are just $4)
* Staff and faculty members get four General Admission tickets: Use your special promo code to claim your tickets at: www.mygophersports.com/online/faculty-staff

The Purdue match will honor some of our Gopher alums. Minnesota volleyball will honor the 20th anniversary of the 1993 Regional Semifinal team as well as the 10th anniversary of the 2003 Final Four team.

Purdue Match (BTN.com)
* U of M Faculty/Staff Appreciation Night
* Student Section Promo-It's Dress Like a Pirate Day. Students who wear the best pirate costume gets a chance to win a set of Beats headphones (See Karlie Hauer, Lindsey Lawmaster and Daly Santana demonstrate above).
* Staff and faculty members get four General Admission tickets: Use your special promo code to claim your tickets at: www.mygophersports.com/online/faculty-staff
* Girl Scout Day
    $10 Ticket Package (contact gsm@umn.edu for more information). Click here to order tickets:
    Link for ordering tickets (Direct link located here)

* Gopher Football Special
Free General Admission Ticket with Football Ticket Stub from the Iowa game
* Gopher Alumni Special
Free General Admission Tickets for all VB Alumni (limit to four tickets):
   Contact Keanon at coope471@umn.edu for information

Gopher Volleyball At the State Fair

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Although the team is busy to prepare for its season opener this Friday, head coach Hugh McCutcheon and seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman took time to head to the Minnesota State Fair, Tuesday, August. 27. The three, along with emcee Matt Nelson entertained the crowd on a warm and humid morning at the University of Minnesota building. In case you missed it, here's a couple photos and soundbites of their experience. What's Tori Dixon's favorite fair food? Find out in the audio link below.

Gopher Volleyball Holds Open Practice

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Open Practice Photo Gallery

The University of Minnesota volleyball program invited its season ticketholders, booster club and media members to an open practice at the Sports Pavilion on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013.

The Golden Gophers began practice at 9:30 a.m. in the warm Pavilion confines. It was the first chance for fans and season ticketholders to see the 2013 team. After warmups, Minnesota conducted scrimmages until 12:15 p.m. Following the scrimmage a meal was provided in the Williams Arena clubroom, where the Point U booster club as well as the season ticketholders were introduced to the Golden Gopher squad.

The Golden Gophers will also be out at the Minnesota State Fair on Tuesday, 10:30 a.m. A large contingent of the student-athletes as well as coaches will be on the U of M stage, located near the Food Building (at the corner of Dan Patch Avenue and Underwood Streets).

Minnesota opens the 2013 campaign on Aug. 30-31, at the UAB/Samford Challenge in Birmingham, Ala. The Golden Gophers open the home season, Sept. 6-7, hosting Ball State, Duke and Western Illinois as a part of the Diet Coke Classic.

2013 Gopher Volleyball Season Underway

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2013 Gopher Volleyball First Practice

The University of Minnesota volleyball team conducted its first practice of the 2013 season. The Golden Gophers hit the Sports Pavilion court on Saturday, Aug. 10. Running in the morning, the Gophers held physical testing with their strength coach, Sara Wiley, while head coach Hugh McCutcheon ran the first practice of the 2013 season. 

The Gopher head coach headed into the season answering five burning questions prior to the start of the 2013 season. The short queston/answer session can be found here.

Here's a photo gallery of the first day as well as coach McCutcheon's audio interview afterwards.

Hugh McCutcheon Camps Summer Camps Coming to a Close

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Although it's not volleyball season quite yet, the Sports Pavilion have been busy this month. This week, Gopher coach Hugh McCutcheon wraps up camps, concluding three-straight weeks of summer camp.

The McCutcheon Volleyball Camps kicked off on July 8-12 at the Sports Pavilion with the all positions prep camp. This group was designed for experienced athletes who aspire to play volleyball collegiately. The second began with an all skills camp, July 15-19, which was designed for any volleyball athlete who wants to learn more about the game. The summer camps wrap up this week as it hosts its Fundamental 4 youth camp, July 22, 23, 25 and 26, ranging from kids, eighth grade or younger.

The Gopher volleyball team will get under way early in August. Minnesota opens the season. Aug. 30-31, in Birmingham, Ala. when it competes in the UAB/Samford Challenge. Minnesota opens the home season, Sept. 6-7 when it hosts the annual Diet Coke Classic. This year, Western Illinois, Ball State and Duke come to town.

Gophers Participating with USA Volleyball This Summer

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Two members of the Gopher volleyball team are currently training with USA Volleyball prior to the 2013 season. Tori Dixon is training with the USA Volleyball for its summer training session in California, while Ashley Wittman is competing with the A2 program in Dallas, Texas.

Dixon was selected to partake in a two-week, short term training session, invited by USA Volleyball national team coach Karch Kiraly. Dixon left on June 22nd and returns to Minnesota on July 4th, competing at the American Sports Center in Anaheim. She and former Gopher Lauren Gibbemeyer have been back in the gym together the last few weeks. Gibbemeyer, who helped Team USA win the Pan Am Cup, was recently named to Preliminary roster of USA's Volleyball Cup roster that will take on Japan, 10-13.

Wittman is competing with USA Volleyball's A2 program, while former Gopher coach Mike Hebert is also there in attendance as Team White's coach. With Team Blue, Wittman started competition on June 29th and continues through July 3 in the bronze and gold medal matches. In the June 30th match against Team Red, Wittman recorded 14 kills. The athletes were selected via the U.S. Women's National Volleyball Team Open Tryouts held Feb. 22-24 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The tryout attracted a record 240 participants, 33 more than the previous best mark set in 2012. Athletes selected to both the A2 program and the U.S. Women's Junior National Volleyball Team (WJNT) could only participate in the WJNT program with the 2013 FIVB Volleyball Women's Junior World Championship as the priority event.

Both Dixon and Wittman enter their final year as a Golden Gopher. Wittman was Minnesota's 2012 team captain and a honorable mention All-American. Dixon received second-team All-America honors last season and was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection. Dixon and Wittman are two of 10 student-athletes returning from last year's Elite Eight team. Minnesota begins its season on Aug. 30-31st at the UAB/Samford Tourney in Birmingham, Ala.

Gibbemeyer and Santana Close out Pan Am Cup with Wins

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 Former University of Minnesota volleyball player Lauren Gibbemeyer and current Golden Gopher Daly Santana each closed out the 2013 Pan American Cup this past weekend in Peru. Gibbemeyer played with the United States that won the gold medal, while Santana played with Puerto Rico and helped qualify for the World Grand Prix.

Gibbemeyer was a part of the United States team that went on to defend its title when it won gold on June 16. Gibbemeyer and Team USA defeated the Dominican Republic in straight sets (25-12, 25-20, 25-18) for Team USA's second-straight Pan Am Cup gold medal. Individually, Gibbemeyer had 11 points when she had eight kills on 16 attempts, and added three blocks. The United States reached the title match after it swept Brazil (25-11, 25-20, 25-22) on Saturday.

Santana and Puerto Rico earned a 3-1 win (27-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-19) over Canada on Saturday. With the win, Puerto Rico solidified the final spot available for the 2014 FIVB World Grand Prix. Prior to its win over Canada, Santana and her team defeated Costa Rica, 25-5, 25-14, 25-12. The 25-5 first set win against Costa Rica marked one of the most lopsided sets in the history of the Women's Pan American Cup. The record belongs to the U.S., in a 25-2 win (2010), also against Costa Rica.

NORCECA helped contribute information and photos to this article.

Golden Gopher Connections in the Pan Am Cup

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Follow all the action here!

Two players with Golden Gopher connections are currently playing in the Pan Am Cup with their respective countries. Former Gopher great Lauren Gibbemeyer is playing with Team USA, while current Golden Gopher Daly Santana is playing for Puerto Rico.

Gibbemeyer, a part of USA's defending Pan Am Cup champions, has played in all matches so far. As Team USA swept Argentina (6/12), Gibbemeyer had eight points on seven kills in 15 attacks. Against Puerto Rico (6/11), Gibbemeyer produced 11 kills on 24 swings and had three blocks as USA rallied to win in five sets, 28-30, 23-25, 25-14, 25-17, 15-13. She led Team USA in scoring against Trinidad & Tobago (6/10) when she had seven kills on 12 attempts, three blocks and an ace. Team USA has claimed first place in Pool A and direct spot in the semifinals.

Santana is a part of Puerto Rico that has gone 1-2 in pool play. The team fell to Argentina in straight sets (25-23, 25-21, 25-15), lost to Team USA, but bounced back for a three-set win over Trinidad & Tobago 25-19, 25-18, 25-12 on June 12. Against Team USA, Santana had 14 kills in 31 attempts and had an ace in the match against Team USA.

Gopher Volleyball Blog: Pre-Tournament Press Conference

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Purdue University streamed all of the pre-tournament press conferences and will be available at a later date on Gopher All-Access. Below is the full transcription of head coach Hugh McCutcheon's press conference along with team participants Ashley Wittman and Alexandra Palmer.

2012 NCAA Regionals
Pre-Match Press Conference - Minnesota
Mackey Arena, West Lafayette
, Ind.; December 7, 2012

Minnesota Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon

Opening Statement
"We are very happy to be here and obviously excited to be at this phase in the tournament. We think it's a great setup and facilities here at Purdue and so we look forward to a good match tomorrow, so we'll see what will happen from there."

On what goes into stopping a great player like Ariel Turner...
"I'm not sure anyone has figured that out yet. She's probably going to get hers and it's about us taking care of it. Purdue is more than just her, there are a lot of dynamic weapons on the team and so it is about trying to deal with the patterns that they have, so then we can get in our own rhythm and get in some defensive spots so we will have a few points in transition. But she's a handful and a good player and that's what good players do, they score."

On how difficult it is to defend so many offensive players...
"The reason that the Big Ten is such a strong conference right now is because every team has different ways of attacking you. You get used to dealing with balanced offenses, but more importantly it forces the athletes to read the game and make the right choice at the right time. That has always been the most important skill in our sport and our team has gotten better as the season has gone on. Purdue has a great offense and we will do our best to see the game and see the spots to score a few points there."

On the initial expectation of being the new coach at Minnesota...
"The driving factor for me was trying to get a different rhythm to life relative to the fact that we had a couple young children and with the national team we were traveling very extensively around 130-150 days a year with most of the road trips 30 days in a row. My goal in life was to be a dad, not necessarily a coach and I just figured college volleyball was the right way to give a little bit more balance. We don't work any less hard or that it's any less competitive, but I just don't have to raise my kids over Skype. If I go on the road it's three or four days at a time. I don't know how to pack for a three day road trip, but I can pack for a 30 day road trip, no problem. It has been great that my kids and my wife get to be a part of the matches at home considering when I was with the national team we would be playing in other countries for four years. I get to battle in the great conference and train some really good student athletes and human beings, but the family component has certainly been a great addition for me in my life."

On the fact that they have played Purdue before...
"I think it's good. At this point it comes down to execution. None of us want to be working where we get in a situation where we get surprised a lot and when you're playing a conference opponent there's a lot of data. They know us and we know them and we'll go to battle. It is not a negative by any means because at this stage in the tournament everyone is strong. People might infer that on paper we would be favored going into tomorrow's match, but I think it will be evenly matched."

On tinkering with the lineup...
"We were just trying to be a little smoother. Our highs were pretty high and our lows were pretty low and we wanted to be in the middle of the wave. Morgan has done a nice job and if she gets into trouble we know that Lindsey will come in and take over. We just want to be as smooth and consistent as we can be."

Ashley Wittman, Junior Outside Hitter

On the challenges of taking on Purdue another Big Ten team...
"I wouldn't say there are any challenges, but you just have to know that we have played them before in our conference. It's been a while, so both teams have gotten better and worked hard so there is no taking them lightly. We just need to focus on our game and worry about what we are going to do out there on the court tomorrow because in the end we are controlling ourselves."

On the strengths of Purdue and the keys to win...
"One thing that we are going to have to focus on is that Turner will get a lot of sets. That's one thing we have known about Purdue for a couple years now. Otherwise it's working on our game and playing disciplined and focusing on what we do, so then we will be good in the end."

On growing up a Minnesota fan and getting the program back to the higher level that it is known for being...
"It is about carrying on a legacy that past Gophers have done because this program has been great for years and years. We want to continue that legacy and get farther and farther each year and not stay the same.  With McCutcheon coming in he pushes us to get better and better to do the best to our ability."

Alexandra Palmer, Junior Setter
On how playing conference teams prepares for the tournament...

"Playing in the Big Ten is like playing in the championship game every single night we're out on the court. It prepares us ultimately for the outside pressures going into the tournament with the atmosphere and the crowds, so I think we're ready."

On Purdue having the home advantage...
"Ultimately it doesn't, it depends on personal players views and how they feel about home crowds. With us going in and playing, we are going to have a lot of fans coming in combined with the Purdue fan base it is going to be great and a really fun atmosphere to play in."

On the turning point of becoming a better team...
"We were applying what we were learning in practice and were able to not only compete really hard and be able to apply what we were learning in order to get better every single day to get us to where we are now."