Nov. 6, 2012
Brianna Haugen has played in 48 career matchs and 78 sets in her Gopher tenure. Against North Dakota State earlier this year, Haugen had six kills in 13 swings. As a junior last season, Haugen played in 17 matches, including a career-best seven kills and hit .500 against Illinois. Here's a short question/answer session with the senior leader.
Q: Being your last season with the Gophers, who is your most anticipated team to play?
A: I think one of my favorite teams to play is Nebraska in their gym because it is such a loud and exciting environment. Another team I enjoy playing is Illinois as they're also a good team. To be honest I could probably just keep listing teams that are exciting to play, especially in the Big Ten. Everyone is good and you have to be ready every match and every night to battle and to play your best. Every game is an opportunity to get better and work on the things you have been learning that week in practice.
Q: As a middle blocker, what methods do you take in order to read the attack and be successful in your block?
A: It's actually crazy how much is going on with our minds and eyes when we block that everyone else just doesn't see. The middle blocker has to be able to see the most important parts of the other team's movement. We try to take in the important things, like where the ball is passed and what the setter is doing. Reading the setter is such a vital part of blocking because it helps to know where the ball is going so hopefully you can close with your outsides or stop a quick middle hit. It definitely takes a while to learn and get good at this ability, but once you start seeing what is really going on, the game slows down a bit. Suddenly your able to close and able to get in front of the hitter instead of being surprised at what is happening.
Q: How important is communication on the court with your teammates to get your different attacks across, and be where you need to be on the net?
A: Communication is definitely important. With anything you do in life you need to be able to communicate effectively to others and this is no different. Calling for the set not only lets the setter know your ready to hit and that you want the ball, it helps her locate where you are and how fast your moving. This is especially important for the outsides on balls that are really far off the net and may be hard for the setter to see. If the set is good it's also important to communicate it. It's not only for technical pieces of the game, but for supporting and motivating your teammates. The only hard part is that there is not a lot of time in between plays so it has to be said directly and it doesn't work to sugarcoat. It takes work to communicate effectively.
Q: What has been your favorite traveling experience and/or memory with the team during your time here?
A: I remember my freshman year we went to Washington DC for the spring. It was a long trip and we were all cranky by the end and were ready to come home. The whole time I had a tooth infection so my whole side of my mouth swelled up. It seems like it would be a horrible memory, but thinking about it now is hilarious. My ultimate travel experience was going to the Final Four my freshman year and just seeing that many people watching the game and having that opportunity. Traveling to Seattle two years ago for the tournament was fun. We explored the city after our flight home was delayed due to a snowstorm in Minnesota. Finally, I think a great memory in general has got to be all the little things that I enjoy about the team. Last year we had to do towel pushes during practice and we all began going as fast as we could. Ashley (Wittman), however, got about halfway and tripped on her towel and proceeded to fly over her towel into what Chris (Tamas) says is one of the best dive moves he has seen her do. We realized later that it was caught on practice tape and let's just say we definitely saved that practice tape, it was hilarious.
Q: What does it mean for you being in your senior year that Minnesota Volleyball has a steady coaching staff that is going to last for future seasons?
A: I am thrilled that Hugh McCutcheon is finally here and excited for everyone in the upcoming seasons. It's nice to have a set coach, but the transitions have been pretty easy and have helped the team get where we are today. I think having different perspectives and different coaching has contributed to our knowledge of the game. I have had Mike (Hebert), Laura (Bush) and now Hugh. All three coaches have brought something different to the table and this is what has made me the player I am today. I think the coaching staff we have now is awesome and every day we are just working to get better, learning, and I think it shows on the court.