Sept. 6, 2011
Mia Tabberson has been a staple in the University of Minnesota volleyball program's success so far this season. The Muncie, Ind., native has played in all matches for the Golden Gophers and leads the Big Ten Conference in assists with 203, averaging 12.69 per set. Here's a short question and answer session with the setter.
Question: Being from Indiana and coming to Minnesota, can you talk about the adjustments you made and differences you noticed, as well as your experience playing with Minnesotan teammates?
Mia Tabberson: My family is from the Minnesota-Wisconsin area, so I am very familiar with the area. We spent a lot of holidays coming to Minnesota and seeing family up here, so I'm familiar with Minneapolis. My favorite part about it is the big city. I love the urban atmosphere. I came from a smaller city in Indiana. We didn't have the Mall of America, or the light rail system, or the downtown atmosphere, and I really like that. Also, coming into an environment with so many Minnesota players, I had to learn a lot of the Minnesota lingo. You guys call it "duck, duck, gray duck" not "duck, duck, goose." Tater-tot hot dish-- I had never had that before. Bay-gel versus bagel. Just funny little Minnesota quirks. Every state has its own personality, and Minnesotans definitely have their own personality. I love it. It's fun to pick up on those things and then bring them back home to Indiana. People say, "What are you talking about?" and they tease me, but I like that, for sure.
GS: Talk about what your major is and what you would like to do after you're done with volleyball.
MT: I'm a psychology major right now. I'm not sure where I'm going with that. I'm looking into either child psych or adult care, maybe working in a nursing home. My grandma's currently going through Alzheimer's, and I'm just watching her process--she's six years into it right now--and the treatment she's been going through. I've also looked into a bit of criminal psychology. My plan right now is to finish my final two years here and then do grad school, and specialize at that point. After I'm done playing at Minnesota, I would like to play overseas professionally, and play until my body's broken, and at that point come back and go to grad school and find a real job, I guess.
GS: This year you're coming into the season as the starting setter, which has been different than in the past. What does that mean to you as far as confidence, and how does that help you going into these matches knowing that you're the go-to person?
MT: It's definitely a different perspective. Last year, Stephanie Nucci and I had a very healthy competition for the setter position. Every day we had to fight to earn our position. Now it's just a different battle, more with myself. How can I make myself better? How can I do what needs to be done for the team? Really challenging myself each and every day, that's the biggest thing. It's a totally different position. It is nice to be able to have the confidence to know I'm the starting setter. I'm really working on building my confidence back up and working toward knowing I've earned this position. I want to get better each and every day.
GS: Being one of the two team captains, how do you see yourself in that leadership role, and what does being a captain mean to you?
MT: I feel honored that the team voted Hailey and me into that leadership role. It meant a lot to both of us. Every day it's a new challenge. I definitely have to be at my best all the time, on and off the court. I have to be able to hold myself accountable and hold others accountable, it's a new role. It's a challenge, but we're working through it. We're figuring our way through this, and hopefully we're getting the team where we need to go.
GS: You have a freshman setter, Kellie McNeil, on the team. How do you mentor a younger player at your position, and how do you try and keep that competitive nature?
MT: Kellie's great. She's working on her setting, obviously, but we're also training her as a hitter. So that's kind of an interesting situation. She's working on two positions and splitting her time up. We spent time this summer--we did a setting camp together, so I got a lot of time to get to know her then. I constantly think back--Taylor (Carico) was definitely my mentor. She came in as a senior, and she was a phenomenal player. I learned a lot from her. I often spend time thinking, "How did Taylor interact with me? How do I want to interact with Kelly?" The biggest thing is creating that friendship off the court, and just being a teammate. There's no class. There's no divide. We're all on the same page. You treat each person like you want to be treated, and you work through it that way. I really like Kellie. She's going to be good. She's doing well.
GS: You have some non-conference tournaments coming up with two matches against Texas and then two matches on the same day in the Northern Iowa Tournament. How do you prepare for matches like that?
MT: There is a little bit of different preparation. The following tournaments, we're going to be playing two matches in one day. That's a whole different battle mentally and physically. You have to go through your rituals, your pregame preparations, your superstitions--whatever you have, your mental focus--and then on top of that you have to prepare to play two different opponents. That's interesting as well. You almost break the day up into two different days. It's a lot of challenges, but we'll get through it.