The Minnesota volleyball team hosted its 2008 media day on Tuesday, Aug. 19. The following is set of quotes from Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert regarding fall practice and the outlook for the upcoming season:Opening Statement:
“This season we want to overcome some frustrations from last season. Last season, we fought each other a lot trying to get on the same page technically and tactically, but we just never quiet pulled it off. From last spring to this summer and all the way into our preseason camp, we’ve had one goal in mind and that is to all be pulling on the same end of the rope. That’s not always easy to do in athletics, but so far we’ve been doing it and I’m predicting we’ll have by far a much better season. We’re deeper at every position, we’re starting at a much more advanced point this season as far as our system of play. A lot of our returning players are familiar with our system, so we haven’t had to spend as much time explaining and teaching and drawing things up. We’ve been able to just go after it, and I think that’s one of the more gratifying things about this camp so far. We’re reasonably healthy and we’re on track. We’re having a solid preseason camp and hope it translates into some big wins this year.”On Brook Dieter:
“She is having a sensational camp so far. It’s typical for a freshman to start slow in any sport in the Big Ten because they just don’t know what to expect or how to respond to the schedules in college and the time management pressures. I think it really impacts their play. Brook played a significant role for us last year, and I think it helps since her and Lauren have to learn to handle the pressure much quicker. Right now, she’s almost a veteran and I think she’ll have a fabulous year.
Brook is an emotional player and an extremely gifted athlete. She has a tremendous jump, great arm swing and is somebody that can play at an All-American level. I think if the team has a great year, she has a chance for postseason recognition. That relies on the team having a solid season. She’s a dramatically quick and a great athlete.”On Lauren Gibbemeyer:
“Lauren is the most competitive kid we have on the team right now. She takes everything in practice seriously. If we tell them to put on shoes, she wants to be first. You cannot buy that kind of competitiveness and Lauren brings that to the program. This year she seems to be accepted for her competitiveness by her teammates. She speaks her mind on the court. This year she has polished the rough edges off enough to where she is a model of competitiveness for the rest of the team.”
On what the biggest change will be this season:
“The fact that we will all be part of the team as opposed to last year where we had part of the team pulling in one direction, part of the coaching staff pulling in another, and part of the team pulling in no direction. I think you’ll get a much more settled down effort by everybody.
Another thing you’ll see is we won’t make nearly as many unforced errors. That was us last year, we just kept shooting ourselves in the foot. When you have a lot of unforced errors, the game and the match progress very quickly because the points get thrown up on the board every time there is a mistake. What happens when we play without errors is that we must earn our points and the opponents must earn their points. It becomes a much more exciting style of play, matches last longer, and I think everybody feels much better about the product.”On this year’s lineup:
“Right now leading the way for outside hitters are Kyla Roehrig and Brook Dieter. The middle hitters right now are going to be Lauren Gibbemeyer and Kelly Schmidt. Kelly has made a lot of strides since last season, and was also elected the captain. Rachel Hartmann is clearly winning the setter battle. A lot of people thought Alex Blatt would come in and win that spot, but Rachel has improved very much. In the opposite position, Pam Luiz from Brazil is in the lead. Libero is a close battle between Jessica Granquist and the returning incumbent Christine Tan. I really like how practice is going. There is a lot of competition for spots. By the time we roll into Omaha on the 29th of August, I think we’ll be ready.”
On how last season ended:
“We made the NCAA tournament and that in itself is not easy feat. But it was not one of our better teams. We played a tough senior-laden team in Sacramento State. We started competitive, but firmly grasped a hold of the idea that things weren’t going well and we managed to lose that match. It was a very frustrating period of time for us. In my 12 or 13 years here, no team has ever felt that level of frustration. In spring practice, you could tell that was still on our players minds. My view is that the deeper the scar, the greater the height you can rise to and I think they are all buying into it.”
On upcoming schedule:
“I think the first tournament that we play in may be one of the toughest of the season. We face Texas A&M who is a team that was snubbed out of the NCAA tournament last year and is not happy about it. Creighton is picked by many to win their conference, and they’ll be awfully good. With LSU, some people are picking them to upset Florida and win the conference this year. I wouldn’t be surprised if all those teams will be in the top 25. The tournament in Hawaii is tough because they draw between eight and ten thousand people and it’s difficult to avoid jet lag. Hawaii will be ranked in the top 12 or so. Cincinnati has their best team ever so that makes the first two tournaments pretty tough. The truly toughest tournament will be when we come home for the Diet Coke Classic. Cal will be in the top five, Cal Poly will be top eight and Notre Dame could be in the top 25. We’re testing ourselves early and it’s a do or die situation. We’ll have to come out of there with some wins.”
On whether he’s thought about changing the team system to a 6-2:
“I don’ think so because our setters now are very different in their delivery style and their timing. To run that system, you need two setters who are very similar in their playing style. It involves the right timing and the right people and with our two setters we have, I think they’re different.”