Ohio/Madison),The University of Minnesota volleyball team has signed three athletes to National Letters of Intent to begin play in the 2000 season. They are middle hitter Bethany Brafford (Mansfield, Ohio/Madison), outside hitter/ opposite hitter Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn./Prior Lake Christian) and outside hitter/opposite hitter Erin Lorenzen (Pipestone, Minn./Pipestone-Jasper).
Brafford is the 1999 State of Ohio Player of the Year and the Ohio Gatorade Player of the Year. She was listed among the Powerade Top 75 College Recruits. Brafford led Madison High to a 23-5 record and a fifth-place finish in the 1999 Ohio Division I Volleyball Tournament. "Bethany is a highly-decorated player who can hit the ball hard," said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. "She has good all-around volleyball skills and could play any of the three front-row positions."
Busse led Prior Lake Christian to three consecutive Minnesota Association of Christian Schools state championships. She was the most valuable player of her team for four years, and was the most valuable player in the state tournament twice. "Cassie has great leaping abilities and good ball-handling skills," said Hebert. "She could develop into a primary passer and play either the left side or the opposite position."
Lorenzen was named to the all-state team in Minnesota during the 1999 season. She was the most valuable player at Pipestone-Jasper High the last two years, and earned two all-area and three-all conference awards. "Erin is a left-handed player who could play either outside hitter position," said Hebert. "She has naturally intelligent footwork, which gives her a solid foundation for developing into a high-level Big Ten player."
Minnesota had one of its most successful seasons in 1999, finishing with a 27-9 overall record and a 15-5 Big Ten record. The Gophers advanced to the "Sweet 16" of the 1999 NCAA Volleyball Tournament and finished with a No. 16 national ranking, matching the best final ranking in school history.