Gopher Spotlight: Sarah Wilhite

Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

Go Gophers!

Nov. 18, 2013

Sarah Wilhite is in her first season after a strong high school performance with Eden Prairie and Northern Lights Volleyball Club. As a rookie, Wilhite has played in 64 sets and has established 86 kills to average 1.34 kills per set. Playing at both the right side and outside hitting position this year, Wilhite also has played six rotations. She has 123 digs and 10 aces. Here's a short question/answer with Sarah.

What ultimately led to your decision to come to Minnesota?
A: The coaching staff was a very big part, they are all such great coaches and definitely a good thing for this program. The program is also unbelievable. All the opportunities we have as student-athletes here at the University of Minnesota is unlike other schools. There's just so many resources to take advantage of. Life of a student athlete is definitely great at this school.

Minnesota has had a healthy pipeline from Northern Lights. How have you been able to translate club volleyball to Minnesota's system?
A: Northern Lights was a competitive club and we competed against great teams. Obviously it's different than here because you're competing against same age athletes, but it definitely prepared me well with the competition. Obviously it's different techniques and different styles of play, but overall it was an easier transition playing at such a competitive level. Obviously it was still a transition to how competitive it is here because it is a whole new level of competition. I love the high competition here and Northern Lights definitely helped that.

You played with Hannah and Paige Tapp at Northern Lights. Was it nice to have that connection here?
A: I was really excited to have the opportunity to play with them again. They are great friends, teammates and good people. It was definitely exciting now that we live together and now I have the opportunity to play with them another four years after two with Northern Lights.

As a younger outside hitter, who have you looked up to or consider a mentor?
A: Ashley Wittman. She's a senior and just her experience on the team and her experience with Hugh as the coach is great to have. I look up to her as she's also an outside hitter. Playing against her in high school, my freshman year, I would always be so amazed at how hard she hit the ball. I am just lucky to play alongside her. Daly Santana is great, she loves to compete and I look up to that a lot also.

You're an outside hitter and have also played at the right side. For those who don't know, how difficult is it to make that switch?
A: Outside and right-side are different. I have played outside my whole life so it was kind of a hard transition but Coach Hugh always tells me it's just a ball and a net. It''s the same game and I should have the same mindset no matter what side of the net I'm on. It was hard to transition and I don't think I am fully there, but I do have to keep in mind that no matter what,  I just have to go out there and play. It's a different view as to when the ball is coming, It's a shorter distance from the setter to the right-side than to the outside. It's just definitely a journey, and it's a process and you kind of just have to take it step by step.

What's been your biggest adjustment, on or off the court, as a collegiate volleyball player?
A: Definitely balancing school work and volleyball because practice and competition is a big chunk of our day. We've traveled a lot this fall semester. I think that is probably the biggest transition from high school for me. But practice makes perfect and as the weeks go on it just gets easier to balance both of them and I've learned to focus on what needs to be focused on that week. No matter what class I'm in I obviously focus 100 percent there and if I'm in practice, I'm there to practice. And again, Bierman is such a great place because I get a lot of work done here and there are always tutors available. That's what has made the transition easier for me.

Any idea of what you'd like to major it yet?
A: I'm actually undecided. I enjoy sciences and maths over history and business but I'm just not quite sure what's in store for me. I'm still exploring.
 
Your nickname is `Sauce.' How did you get it?
A: It kind of started with my little sister. She's eight years old now but when she was young she couldn't really pronounce Sarah. She just started calling me Saw-Saw or Saucy. My friends and family started calling me that and so did Hannah and Paige in my club season. Hannah just straight up called me Sauce and introduced it to this team. I think it was Tori who heard it first and she just started calling me it as a joke, but then it kind of stuck. Some people still call me Sarah, but pretty much everyone on the team now calls me Sauce, which is kind of strange but funny.