Gophers volleyball

U vb: Gophers next recruiting class shaping up nicely

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

John Tawa’s rated this year’s freshman class at the U the No. 1 in the country. Well, Gophers coach Mike Hebert already has two highly recruited player locked up for 2010. They are Ashley Wittman of Shakopee and Tori Dixon of Burnsville.

Tawa’s web site, which relies on college coaches, rates Wittman No. 8 and Dixon No. 13 in the country.  Here is what says about each:

Ashley Wittman, 6-0 OH, Shakopee (Minnesota), Northern Lights

Ashley Wittman is the epitome of a complete player. A fierce and driven competitor, she has great leaping ability (recently touching 10-5!), a hammer for an arm and an unyielding desire to win. In high school, Wittman is the reigning National Junior of the Year and her Shakopee High School team is working on its third straight Minnesota AAA championship.

Her Northern Lights club team won back-to-back-to-back AAU National Championships and earned three Open Division medals. She’s been a major contributor to that success in virtually every rotation. Wittman is an unstoppable force on the court. She has excellent range as a hitter, can attack any tempo and hits a mean high ball. She is a strong block on the left side. She is a primary passer and has a tough jump float serve. Due to her long, agile body, she covers a lot of court defensively and is very accurate with her digging. A 4.0 student, this Minnesota

My comments: 6-6 Tabi Love can touch 10-5 1/2, so Ashley is in the same stratosphere. And Love’s father said, if he had to do it over again, Tabi would have enrolled at the U early like Ashley is planning to do. Might be a trend.

Tetori “Tori” Dixon, 6-3 MB, Burnsville (Minnesota), Northern Lights

At 6-3 and extremely strong, Dixon is a formidable and intimidating opponent. While her father (former Minnesota Viking Offensive Guard David Dixon) blocked for quarterbacks and running backs, Tori does some outstanding blocking of her own. Beyond being a supreme rejecter, Dixon has all-around skills that surprise. She plays middle for the celebrated Northern Lights team but lives on the outside for her high school squad.


U vb: Gophers pound Auburn

Friday, September 4th, 2009

In the Gophers’ first volleyball match at home, the U stomped Auburn 25-11, 25-17, 25-6 at the Sports Pavilion before a boistrous crowd of several thousand.

The match, the second of two on the first day of the Diet Coke Classic, took 61 minutes. Not sure if the 10-minute break between the second and third sets was included in the total time.

You get the point, though. No. 13-rated Minnesota (4-1) dominated. As did Iowa State which earlier beat George Washington 25-18, 25-18, 25-15.

Especially effective early for the Gophers last night was middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer. She had 11 kills in 15 attacks for a gaudy .667 hitting percentage.

Teammate Brook Dieter, an outside hitter, was a force in the third set with eight kills. She finished with 12 kills on 27 attacks and a .370 hitting percentage.


U vb: A split in Omaha, choice seats

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The U beat No. 22 Kansas State in five sets and lost to No. 3 Nebraska in five sets in a tournament in Omaha on Fri.-Sat.

Not a bad start. Something to build on. Team has a lot of new players. It would be surprising if team was humming already.

Didn’t watch any of two matches but did see team in preseason scrimmage last Tuesday. My impressions: junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer is going to be a force at the net as a hitter and blocker.

Taylor Carico seemed very consistent as the new setter, spreading the ball around.

Brook Dieter’s jump serve looked like the best on the team.

Overall, the team’s serving was not sharp in the scrimmage. In Omaha, the Gophers also struggled with the serve: five aces, 18 errors in two matches.

K-State had 10 aces, 10 errors. One reason that match was so close.

Also liked Tabi Love in scrimmage. She is all of 6-6, no fudging their with extra inches. She has potential. A big upside, so to speak.

Carico can also score points. At times, instead of setting, she will confuse foes with a spike.


U vb: Gophers ranked No. 8

Monday, August 10th, 2009

Volleyball Magazine ranks the Gophers No. 8 in its preseason national poll. Two-time defending NCAA champion Penn State is No. 1, followed by Texas and Nebraska.

Let’s stop there. Do you know who the U plays in its second match of the season? Those No. 3 Cornhuskers.

The Gophers are in the AVCA Showcase on Aug. 28-29 in Omaha. The U opens with Kansas State, then plays Nebraska.

 OK, continuing with the top 10: No. 4 Washington, No. 5 Stanford, No. 6 Cal, No. 7 Hawaii — No. 8 Minnesota — No. 9 Florida and No. 10 UCLA.

The Gophers finished No. 14 in the final AVCA poll last year and were as high as No. 8. The AVCA’s preseason poll comes out next week.

Other Big Ten teams rated by Volleyball Magazine are Illinois at No. 13 and Michigan at No. 15.

U vball: Gophers loaded

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Gophers volleyball coach Mike Hebert can hardly wait for the season to begin. He’s going to be a good coach this fall. Of course, talented players help.

Hebert has his best three, maybe four players back from the 2008 team which finished second in the Big Ten and was ranked No. 14 in the final coaches’ poll.

This team should be rated in the top 10 when the preseason ratings come out. Hebert has the No. 1 recruiting class coming in. It includes 6-6 Tami Love from Winnipeg.

He also has three transfers, including senior Taylor Corico, the setter from USC the past three seasons. Taylor was a second-team All-America player in 2007 when the Trojans reached the Final Four.

Might take a while for all the talent to mesh but if, or when it does, watch out.

Defending NCAA Penn State, which was unbeaten last season, still might be the best team in the country. But the U should make some noise and pack the Pav often when the season begins.

U volleyball: Recruit gets huge honor

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Shakopee outside hitter Ashley Wittman, who has committed to the University of Minnesota, has been named the National Player of the Year among all juniors by

She led the state with 655 kills as the Sabers won their second consecutive Class 3A state title. She also has a 4.0 GPA., in its story about Wittman, said in choosing its National Junior of the Year, it looks for the player who made the biggest impact on her high school team and the state she plays in.

Gophers coach Mike Hebert continues to get the state’s best players. He probably can’t wait to work with Wittman some day. Her first year at the U, the team’s two top players, Lauren Gibbemeyer and Brook Dieter, will be seniors. That could be a powerhouse team.

U volleyball: Recruits among nation’s best

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Occasionally we stray from writing just about men’s hockey — especially during a week the Gophers don’t play. How can they be off and I am not?

In this post, we look at volleyball. considers two in-state juniors, both of whom have committed to the U, as candidates for the National Junior of the Year.

Here is what the web site says about each:

Tori Dixon, 6-3 MB, Burnsville (MN) – A Minnesota recruit and U.S. Youth National Team member, Dixon earned First Team All Metro and First Team All State honors after leading Burnsville with 405 kills and 86 blocks. A powerful net presence, her straight down attacks are coming to be known as “Macing the Dixon Line.”

Ashley Wittman, 6-1 OH, Shakopee (MN) — Named Metro Player of the Year in a landslide by both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press BEFORE the state championships, Wittman led the Sabers to a second consecutive state title in the 3A class. She led the state with 655 kills while adding 434 digs and 56 blocks and was at her very best at state. She had a combined 45 kills and 30 digs in six sets in two preliminary matches, then had 32 kills and 28 digs in a four-set finals win over Eastview. Wittman was a member of the US Youth National Team over the summer and has committed to Minnesota.


U volleyball: TCU has two hot players

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Texas Christian University (10-1) won its first nine matches for the best start in history. Then the Horned Frogs stumbled against Oklahoma but quickly recovered.

TCU, which plays the No. 8-rated Gophers at 7 tonight at the Sports Pavilion, beat New Mexico 25-16, 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 15-7 on Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Lauren Otto had 17 kills and 17 digs against NM for her fifth double-double of the season. Christy Hudson had 17 kills and 20 digs, both career highs, in the same match.

The match can be heard on

U volleyball: Can’t overlook TCU

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

The Gophers (8-1) will play another hot team in their first game of the Gopher Invitational this weekend. They play Texas Christian University at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Sports Pavilion.

The Horned Frogs (9-1) are off to their best start in school history. They started the season with nine victories until losing to Oklahoma 23-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-17 in Texas Tech’s tournament in Lubbock.


U volleyball: Cruising to first win

Friday, August 29th, 2008

The Roman jinx was avoided. I wrote how strong the Gophers volleyball team might be in Friday’s morning paper and then held my breath all day.

Would the U win, playing the host team in Omaha? Yes. Easily. The Gophers, ranked No. 16, crushed Creighton 25-14, 25-20, 25-16 in 68 minutes.

The big boppers, preseason all-conference picks Lauren Gibbemeyer and Brook Dieter, had their way with the Bluejays. Both had over .400 hitting percentages — a .300 average is considered good. Gibbemeyer had seven kills, five digs and two block assists. Dieter had 14 kills and five digs.