Gopher Sports: Know the 2023 New Comers

Ignatius L Hoops

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First up: Kylie Murr

Murr was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2022 at Ohio State
Kylie Murr is a graduate transfer libero from Ohio State University. She will play her final year of eligibility this season as a Gopher. The 2022 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year was an AVCA All-America honorable mention last season. She left OSU as its all-time leader in digs.

GS: Can you remember your first time when you got into volleyball?
KM:
My mom coached at Yorktown High School (Indiana) and when I was little the bus would drop me off at the school and I would watch volleyball practice everyday. I would shag all the balls and help where I could. My mom (Rhonda Wilson) played volleyball at Ball State and my sister (Kendall) played at Jacksonville and Mississippi State, so it's been a part of my life as long as I can remember. I was a gym rat since I was a little girl.

GS: What is your favorite volleyball memory growing up?
KM:
My sister is two years older than me and my mom was our high school coach. When I was a sophomore and she was a senior, we won the state championship. To share those experiences together was just so awesome. It wasn't something many people got to do in terms of playing for your mom and with your sister.

GS: When did you know that volleyball was going to be something you pursued after high school?
KM:
When I was young you could just kind of see the skill level comparison. I knew if I stayed committed to this and kept working at it, I could be pretty good. I was one of those kids who played every sport you could think of growing up, but volleyball was always my favorite. It always just kept sticking out to me as the one I had a passion for. It was always my biggest passion and still is.

GS: What other sports did you play growing up?
KM:
I really was serious about softball when I was in middle school, but I had to quit because of the commitments that volleyball required, especially for playing club. If I wanted to not just be good, but be great, I had to lock in on volleyball. When I was younger I also played basketball, gymnastics, ran track, played soccer and tried swimming. My parents couldn't keep me still.
Murr, Melani
Kylie Murr and Melani Shaffmaster playing for Munciana Volleyball ClubGS: You played club volleyball with Munciana and were teammates with [current Gophers setter] Melani Shaffmaster. Talk about your relationship with her.
KM:
She started Munciana when she was 11 and I started when I was 12. We were on the same team from when we were 12 through 15 teams. Then we played together on the 18's team when we were 17 and 18. I think we were pretty much instant friends - we're both pretty similar, both opinionated and love to challenge each other. I was always the smallest one and she was the always the biggest one in the gym so it was funny. We just did everything together and had that same level of competitiveness.

GS: Obviously you two played against each other at Ohio State and Minnesota these past three years, but also in high school. How has that rivalry been?
KM:
Whenever I played against Mel, I wanted to beat her. She had a really good high school team too, her sister was on the team. I'd say we won more of the head-to-head matchups, but they got us a couple times too. Where we're from, people live and breathe volleyball, so the games were always so fun and so competitive.

GS: What was your initial recruitment like out of high school?
KM:
I remember going into it that I wanted to play in the Big Ten. Being a libero, that kind of limited my options since teams really only need one. A couple teams came around, and one of them was Ohio State. They believed in me and offered me a full scholarship, and that meant a lot to me as they wanted me to be their libero. I knew it was a competitive school and one that wasn't too far from home, so it was just a good fit for me.

GS: When you first got to OSU, the team was going through some struggles and wasn't thought of as a top program in the Big Ten. What was it like trying to get the program up towards the top of the Big Ten?
KM:
It was really tough - we didn't have a successful year and our head coach got fired. When I was a sophomore, we had a new coach and a new culture that had to be built, so it took a ton of work. I kind of took a leadership role from that year on and knew it had to take everything we had to get OSU to be competitive with the elite teams of the conference. Of course we lost some games, but to see how far we came by the end of it and to make the Elite Eight last year was so rewarding.

GS: When you think about your career, being the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, OSU's all-time digs leader, All-America honors, were those goals that you set for yourself going into college?
KM:
I had six goals I wrote down in my phone notes before I came in and I accomplished most of them. I wanted to change OSU, play in every single game, make everyone around me better, make All-American, be the Big Ten Freshman of the Week more than once, and finally win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.

GS: What was it like when you entered the transfer portal?
KM:
I entered after the season ended and immediately my email was blowing up. I kind of limited myself though because I knew I wanted to play in the Big Ten, and some schools just don't need a libero. I didn't want to play in any other conference and take a step down. I thought about Penn State because my roommate was going there too, but in the end Minnesota just made sense for so many reasons. I feel like I can add a lot here and they needed me as much as I needed them. I'm just so excited to be a Golden Gopher.
Murr, Kylie
Murr on her official visit to Minnesota in JanuaryGS: What did you do on your official visit to Minnesota?
KM:
It was kind of funny because the coaches were all brand knew and we were all kind of going through the visit together. But they were amazing the whole time and I just felt like they cared about me as a person just as much as they cared about me as a player. I want to play professional volleyball and I felt like coming here would help set me up for those goals as well. But on the visit I hung out with all the girls and coaches, went out to dinner and they took me to a Gophers hockey game. I knew that I was going to come here and the visit just solidified that.
Murr, Melani
Shaffmaster and Murr have been friends since they were 12 years oldGS: You get to play your last year at Minnesota and also with one of your best friends in Melani [Shaffmaster]. Did you ever think that would be possible?
KM:
I never thought this opportunity would come about. We went our separate ways after high school and it was awesome playing against each other for the last three years. But now that it came about, it's just so special. Not a lot of people get to share these experiences with one of your best friends.

GS: How has your introduction to Minnesota been so far?
KM:
It's been amazing, I mean all the girls and coaches have been so great to me. They're already letting me have a voice and help lead in captain's practices and I can feel they're starting to trust me. I'm the oldest person on the team so it's great that we're all willing to talk and learn from one another.

GS: What are the goals you have for the team this year?
KM:
We want to win the Big Ten. After that, I think we can win a national championship. I know everyone says that, but we can make a run to the Final Four, and once you get there, anything is possible.

GS: What about individually?
KM:
I only have six months left of college volleyball, so I really just want to give this team all that I can and just be the best teammate I can to help the team achieve its goals.

GS: What games do you have circled on the calendar in 2023?
KM:
November 3 at Ohio State. It's going to be so special and I know I might be emotional. But walking into that gym and seeing my former coaches and teammates is going to make my feel all types of things. I'm also excited to go to Purdue (home state) and then Nebraska.

GS: How about off the court, what do you like to do when you're not playing volleyball?
KM:
I love watching TV. I have a list of like 1,000 shows that I've watched. But I also love spending time with friends and with the people I love.

GS: What message do you want to leave with Gopher fans heading into the season?
KM:
I know I'm here for a short amount of time but I'm totally bought into this program. I'm a Gopher. I'm here to win and make everyone around me better.

Favorite Food: Pizza
Fun Fact: I used to play the trumpet but I stopped because they made me miss recess to practice
Hidden Talent: I know a little bit of American sign language
Favorite Sport to Watch: Gymnastics
Favorite Pro Sports Team: Cincinnati Bengals and Reds
Favorite Vacation Spot: Anywhere where I'm on the lake (cabin weekend)
Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad and Peaky Blinders
Biggest Inspiration: My parents
 

I love two of Murr's statements:

1 - They're already letting me have a voice and help lead in captain's practices and I can feel they're starting to trust me. (This team really needs that leader on the court)

2 - Favorite TV Show: Breaking Bad and Peaky Blinders (I could not have said it any better. TWO OUTSTANDING SHOWS - Both on the top of my list.)
 


Lydia Grote:

She's a senior transfer from California
Lydia Grote is a transfer from the University of California, where she played her first three years of collegiate volleyball in the Pac-12. She competedcal in 65 matches (226 sets) from spring 2021 through 2022 and averaged 3.22 kills, 1.11 digs, 0.6 blocks and 0.19 service aces per set across those three years. Her best season came as a junior in the fall of 2022, where she averaged career-bests in almost every statistical category, including kills (3.70), digs (1.49), blocks (0.62) and service aces (0.23) per set. She will have two years of eligibility at Minnesota.
GS: Your bio says you're from Burbank, California - is that where you spent most of your life?
LG:
I was born in Virginia but moved to California when I was pretty young. I've lived there ever since.

GS: When did you first get into volleyball and start playing?
LG:
When we moved to Burbank my mom started a volleyball team. It was a bunch of families near us with kids around the same age. She rented videos from the public library to help teach us volleyball and get us into it, she really didn't know the game. She wanted to keep my sister and I active and volleyball was the perfect way. I wasn't that into sports as a kid though to be honest. It started out as a social activity where I could be around my friends, but once I started playing club I really fell in love with the game.

GS: Do you remember when you started to get recruited to play volleyball in college?
LG:
When I started playing on a '1's' team when I was 16, it was like everyone around me was getting recruited to play volleyball in college. It then started to become my plan to go play in college as I developed and got better. My sister Marin got recruited to Washington and she's two years older than me, so that helped pave a path for me to realize that it was possible.
Grote, Lydia
Lydia with her mother, Laurie, and sister, Marin.
GS: What was your college recruitment like? Was Cal always a top choice of yours?
LG:
There were a few other schools I was talking to, but once Cal started showing interest, I knew that's where I wanted to go. I went on a tour there and knew that's what I wanted to do. A friend of mine when I was young always said we'd go to Berkeley together - she's a flute player, not volleyball. But I remember calling her when I committed and it was kind of funny because she was going there too. It was like our childhood plan worked out.

GS: What were your overall takeaways from your first three seasons of college volleyball?
LG:
We were just a really young team. There were six freshmen in my recruiting class, and of that group, five of us played right away. So it was hard when you're fresh out of club volleyball and have to compete with the top teams in the Pac-12 who were more experienced. So we struggled at times, but I learned so many life lessons and how to persevere through adversity. We never gave up and I'm proud of that. I really feel like I learned so much at Cal.
Grote, Lydia
Grote playing at California last fall.GS: What went through your process when deciding to enter the transfer portal?
LG:
It was definitely hard and I was going back and forth and felt it might be time for a change. I wanted to keep playing high-level volleyball and I really care about my academics. That was hard because I chose to leave one of the greatest academic universities in the country. It took a long time for me to decide to enter, I debated all the way until the day before it closed, and I entered my name in then.

GS: Once you did enter, how did the transfer recruitment process go for you?
LG:
I didn't really know where I stood and if I would get a lot of calls heading in. But it turned out that once I was entered in officially, it felt like nonstop calls and emails from teams that wanted me to connect with their staff. It was definitely overwhelming at times and my mom said she didn't know how I was sleeping at night.

GS: What was your recruitment to Minnesota like?
LG:
[head coach] Keegan [Cook] actually texted me and wanted to jump on a phone call. I was familiar with him because my sister played for him at Washington. All the coaches were super supportive and wanted to get to know me as a person, what I wanted to study and what my goals were. It was fun to talk to them and feel out what it would be like to be a Gopher. My sister was definitely excited for me and was trying to tell me I had to go play for Keegan and his staff.

GS: How did your official visits go?
LG:
I took all of my visits and really took my time in making sure the choice I made was the right one. I wanted to make sure I would be happy with the choice I made. Heading into the Minnesota visit, I just felt pretty comfortable coming in. I came here and saw Dinkytown, and I liked that it was a cool little college town in a big city. The coaches all met me at my hotel when I came in and they took me on a tour and to dinner that night. It honestly felt like I was already part of the team when I was here.
Grote, Lydia
Grote on her official visit to Minnesota this winter.
GS: For someone that hasn't seen you play before, what can they expect from you as a player?
LG:
I'm someone that likes to go for it. I'm not afraid to take big swings on the attack. I'm a pretty fast player and like to hit quick sets. I'm also always trying to be strategic and find holes in the block. I would also say I'm very high-spirited and bring a lot of positive energy.

GS: The schedule came out last week, are there any games in particular you have marked on your calendar?
LG:
Overall for conference I'm just excited to play in the Big Ten. I've never played a Big Ten before so jumping into the best volleyball conference is going to be fun. For preseason, I'm excited to play at Stanford as they're a great team and they are really respectful, both the players and coaches. I don't like to think too much about the name of the team because at the end of the day, they have six players on the court and so do we, so we have to just play our game. I'm just excited to compete hard every game.

GS: In terms of goals for the team, what do you want to accomplish?
LG:
I want to win a Big Ten title and a national championship. I've never played in an NCAA Tournament before, so that's something I really am looking forward to. I want to make a deep tournament run and truly enjoy every game that comes with that.

GS: How about individually?
LG:
Of course I would like to win an All-American honor, but I know those are team awards more than anything. No one can accomplish anything great in this game without their teammates.

GS: I know you've only been here two weeks, but how has it been building relationships with the team?
LG:
It's gone really well. The first night I got here everyone invited me to dinner and we just hung out. Everyone is fun to be around and very outgoing. Everyone is always doing something – we've gone to a baseball game and to Sydney's [Schnichels] family's house. It's been a good start to my time here.

GS: What do you like to do when you're not playing volleyball?
LG:
Music is definitely a big one. Whether it's researching music, music history or theory, or playing music. I love playing beach volleyball and just being outside in general. I'm a big explorer and love the outdoors.

Favorite Food: Steak
Fun Fact: I've played outside, right-side and middle all in the same game.
Sport to Watch: Ice Skating and Gymnastics
Pro Sports Team: San Francisco 49ers
Vacation Spot: Virginia Beach, Va.
TV Shows: The Good Place
Inspiration: My sister
 


Sydney Schnichels

An early enrollee in the spring, Sydney will be a freshman this fall
Sydney Schnichels is a true freshman outside/opposite from Willmar, Minn. She enrolled at Minnesota in the spring of 2023 and competed with the team all semester leading up to her freshman year in 2023. She was an Under Armour All-American and a First Team All-State selection last season.
GS: How did your volleyball journey start when you were young?
SS:
My mom played in college and has always loved the game and passed it along to me, it's been a part of my family. One of my aunts played at Denver University and the other played at Bethel. I remember just playing pepper with my mom and aunts at our house and just having fun. In the fourth grade I started playing for one of the Willmar teams and immediately knew that was what I was supposed to do. Basketball quickly went into the background, volleyball was my true love.

GS: Did your family always encourage you to play volleyball or did you find your way on your own?
SS:
I think my mom encouraged you to play because I think she knew that I would enjoy it once I started playing it. I think my family just kind of expected to me play because my cousin also played. When I started playing, they were all super excited. It's just so big in my family.
Schnichels, Sydney
Sydney and her family at her graduation partyGS: You grew up in Willmar and lived there for most of your life, have you ever lived anywhere else?
SS:
I was born in Maple Grove, Minnesota and we moved out to Willmar until I was four. Then my family moved out to Knoxville, Tennessee until I was like six or seven and then we moved back. One of my mom's sisters lived in Tennessee and we wanted to move out there. My dad went to work in my uncle's ministry, he felt called to work there. But things changed when we were there and my family felt called to come back to Minnesota. My two younger siblings (twins) were born and we wanted to be closer to my grandparents.

GS: You have four siblings, how would you describe your relationship with them?
SS:
We definitely have a close-knit family. I'm super close with my sisters even though we have an eight-year age gap, they definitely look up to me a lot. Growing up I was closer to Jackson, he's a little closer in age to me. But as I've gotten older, I've gotten closer with Cooper and we have a great relationship. Whenever I'm home, we all hang out together and it's super fun. They're all athletes too, Jackson (16) and Cooper (13) play football and basketball and Brooklyn (10) and Bailey (10) are gymnasts right now. I hope they transition back to volleyball but we'll see what happens!

GS: Transitioning back to your volleyball career, when did you really start taking the sport seriously?
SS:
I had the goal to play in college ever since I first started playing. Once I got to around sixth and seventh grade is when I started taking it very seriously. I tried out for Minnesota Select 13 1's when I was 11. I ended up making the freshman team as a seventh grader and I played all the time. I just needed time to grow into my body. I made the 13 1's and it gave me the confidence that I could play at a high level.

GS: When did you start getting recruited to play in college?
SS:
I got an email from a college when I was in middle school, so it gave me a glimmer of hope that my dreams are attainable. My dream was always to be a Gopher. I wanted to be the next Stephanie Samedy and that hasn't changed.

GS: What did you like so much about watching Samedy play?
SS:
I remember watching her play when she was a freshman and just loved seeing her get better and better every year. I would model my game after her and study how she would do certain things. My dad would rewind the games and we'd watch film of the Gophers games so I could try to emulate what they were doing.

GS: How did your recruitment process with the Gophers go?
SS:
They invited to a prospect camp that actually didn't end up happening because of COVID. They came and watched me play at AAU Nationals and we stayed in contact, then I came to visit on an official after that. I ended up committing the day before school started of my junior year. I had taken a couple other visits, but I just knew this is what I wanted to do. I didn't want to wait any longer and I wanted to achieve my dream of playing for the Gophers. It was an awesome feeling. This is home and Minnesota is where I want to be. The legacy of Gopher volleyball and getting to play in front of my family and friends is just so exciting to me.

GS: So you were committed to the Gophers for over a year and then a couple weeks before signing day you were told there was going to be a coaching change. What was going through your mind at that point?
SS:
That was a hard experience. No one was expecting that and that usually never happens. I'm thankful we got a heads up on that to give us the opportunity to go a different direction if that's what we wanted to do. I just prayed on my decision and always felt that this is where I wanted to be. It was a lot of talking with my family and thinking about what would be best for me. I leaned on God the whole time and always felt like this was the plan for me and I wasn't going back on it. Thankfully it all worked out because I love it here and the coaching staff is awesome.
Schnichels, Sydney
Sydney prepares for practice in her first semester at Minnesota.
GS: You decided to enroll early and come to Minnesota in the spring of 2023. How was that adjustment to college volleyball in your first few months?
SS:
I knew coming in that it would be a big change. The difference in skill level alone is crazy and then adding the academic side as well. It was literally a three-day transition from me being a high school student to going to college. It took a lot of stepping back and realizing that this was going to be more to handle. I just took things one day at a time and there was going to be some good and some bad. I am just focused on staying dedicated to the process and seeing what worked best with school and volleyball. I know I'm supposed to be here and I'm trying to keep the confidence, but that can be tough when you're making so many changes and everything feels kind of awkward.

GS: How thankful are you that you did come in the spring instead of the fall?
SS:
Oh my I'm so thankful for it. I've been thinking about that for the past few weeks, like what if I waited until the summer? I would've had no time with coaches until August and then the season comes so I am glad I had the first part of my growth process in the spring. On the academic side it's nice to know how things work and knowing what to expect a little bit more.

GS: How have you gone about building relationships with the new coaching staff, both on and off the court?
SS:
They all have different ways that they do things, which I really appreciate. Keegan will go out of his way to call us or make conversation with us after practice just to get to know us more. Kristen, Ky and Eric, we'll go out for a walk or go for coffee. They've all done a great job at making me feel welcome. We've been building those relationships every day.
Minatee, Calissa
Schnichels (2nd to Right), is joined by her teammates before a spring practice.GS: What are you most looking forward to in your first year of collegiate volleyball?
SS:
I'm excited to finally live out my dream and have this experience with the girls. I'm looking forward to seeing the success that comes with putting in all the hard work that we have. We're going to grind together and dig deep. We want to win that first national championship in school history.

GS: What are fans going to be excited about when watching the team this year?
SS:
We have so many new players and everyone brings something different to the table. We have a lot of fun personalities on the team that blend really well together. We're very well connected and there's going to be a lot of positive energy.

GS: When you're not playing volleyball, what do you like to do?
SS:
I'm very close with my family, so I love spending time with them. My grandparents live on a lake in Spicer, so I love getting out there and tubing, water skiing and wake surfing. I also like to shop and hang out with friends. I play a lot of pickeball as well.

Favorite Food: Steak or Fettuccine Alfredo
Fun Fact: I have size 14 feet and my uncle played in the NHL
Sport to Watch: Basketball and Hockey
Pro Sports Team: The Chicago Bulls (big Michael Jordan fan) and Minnesota pro sports teams
Vacation Spot: Cancun, Mexico
TV Shows: Outer Banks
Inspiration: Former Gopher Samantha Seliger-Swenson
 


Calissa Minatee:

Calissa is a true freshman from Kansas City, Mo.
Calissa Minatee is a true freshman middle blocker from Kansas City, Mo. She enrolled at Minnesota in the spring of 2023 and competed with the team all semester leading up to her freshman year in 2023. She was an Under Armour All-American and an AVCA Second Team All-American in the fall of 2022.
GS: Your bio says you grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, is that where you've lived your whole life?
CM:
Yes, my mom's side of the family is from Kansas City, so we have a lot of family there. It's where I've been since I was born.

GS: Tell me about your family, you have two sisters?
CM:
I have two sisters, Chandler (older) and Camryn (younger). Chandler plays basketball in college at Oklahoma State, where she transferred to from Kansas. Camryn plays volleyball and is about to be in high school this fall. I would say I'm pretty close with both of my sisters. Our relationships have definitely progressed as we've gotten older and there's no more petty fights.
Minatee
Calissa Minatee and her sister growing up.GS: Were you always attracted to playing volleyball or did you love other sports and activities growing up?
CM:
I started off with dance, but I knew immediately it wasn't for me. I played soccer for a little while before playing volleyball. There was a rec league and then I eventually started playing club. I was around 11 years old when I started playing club and it kind of just took off from there. It wasn't serious at first as my mom (Jacinthia Prater-Minatee) just wanted an activity for me to do, but at some point we figured out we could get my education paid for one day if I kept playing and developing.

GS: Was your mom a big athlete growing up?
CM:
She was, she played basketball and ran track. I don't think she ever played volleyball though.

GS: When did you start gaining the confidence that you could play volleyball at a high level?
CM:
I had a really influential coach in my life, his name is Ibraheem Suberu (Coach I-B). He coached me in the club space. I remember one day all the rec volleyball girls were playing and the club coaches were seeing who could potentially join their clubs. He came over to me and asked me to jump straight up and touch the antenna. I guess I got pretty high up there and he looked around at the other coaches with a look that said 'we got something here.' But when he coached me, he taught me all the fundamentals and how to really play. I started playing on older teams and kept getting better. When I was 12 I knew I was pretty good, but coach I-B was for sure one of the reasons I started believing in myself.

GS: When you were playing club, what was that experience like when you started seeing college coaches at games?
CM:
I didn't have many nerves when I was growing up and playing, but when I started seeing coaches come around on the sideline, I'll admit I was a bit nervous at first. But the more I played with the coaches watching, the less I thought about it. Volleyball is my sport and this is what I do, so I just played my game and figured I let the chips fall where they may. I knew I was coming up on something great and I was happy to be in those situations.

GS: What was your recruitment process like in high school?
CM:
My very first call was actually from Minnesota. I was really excited because I was a really big fan of [former Gophers middle blocker] Taylor Morgan. As a black mother, my mom would always try and find role models to show me and my sisters that this is something that you can achieve. We used to watch Taylor Morgan and Stephanie Samedy play on TV - she would always be like 'Minnesota's playing' let's check it out. She would always put these role models in front of me, and Minnesota seemed to have the most of any college program. I don't think I ever had a dream school growing up, but I had a lot of role models come through Minnesota.
Morgan Taylor, Minatee Calissa, Davis Arica
Minatee (R) joined by teammate Arica Davis (L) and former Gopher Taylor (Morgan) Reid.GS: What was it like getting to meet Taylor during the Athletes Unlimited event in April?
CM:
It was awesome getting to meet her and the other athletes. She was hilarious on the sideline - I didn't even know her nickname was 'Tay Money.' That's the one thing about being around the players and coaches, they're all human too. I loved talking to her and she's a great person. It was really fun.

GS: Back to your recruitment, once Minnesota starting talking to you, did you always have them at the top of your list?
CM:
I'd say the Gophers were always my favorite. I was also heavily considering an ACC and a Pac-12 school as well, but I always really wanted here. I feel like it's so glamorized with commitments initially with recruits. Some people are sure and others have second thoughts. I'm not going to lie, at one point I had second thoughts. But with talking to my coach, he even said to me, 'just from hearing you talk, it was always Minnesota and then the other schools.' My mom said the same thing. She just said it feels like this is what you want, and you have to stick with what you feel is best.

GS: You followed through with your commitment when signing with Minnesota in November, even though you weren't sure who the head coach was going to be. What was that time in your life like?
CM:
I remember getting the call that there was going to be a change. I didn't freak out, I just thought 'Minnesota is still my home.' Of course you're not around your head coach all the time, but the head coach definitely matters a lot. I feel like God makes plans and this was my plan so I'm going to stick to the plan. I talked with family, the people in my circle, with Sydney [Schnichels] and stayed true to Minnesota. I really appreciated when Hugh [McCutcheon] let us know and everything totally made sense.

GS: What aspects of Minnesota really attracted you to the school?
CM:
I went on my visit and we had a really good dinner. The girls all seemed like they got along so well. I always mentioned how a family-like environment is so important for me and I felt that here. The facilities are awesome and they're all in one place. I'm either at my apartment, Bierman or at the Pav, so it's perfect. Of course, great volleyball is played here and it's the Big Ten, so those are the big three reasons.

GS: Who are your roommates at Minnesota?
CM:
[Junior middle blocker] Arica Davis. She's awesome and absolutely hilarious. She really helped me with my transition to college and being away from home. I was never homesick but she let me know some of the things I needed and she has really been a mentor to me.
Minatee
Minatee and her parents celebrating after a match.GS: So you graduated high school in December and then a few days later you're in college. How has that transition been, athletically and academically?
CM:
Academically, it was surprisingly easier than I thought. I really challenged myself in high school with my course work with some college-level classes. It felt like the same pace here with time management and leaving enough time for my studies. Volleyball-wise, it's always going to be a struggle coming to the next level, and I knew that going in. When it was hard, I knew that was the expectation. If it were easy, I probably didn't choose the right place. When things got tough, I knew this was part of the process. I'm playing against the best of the best so I knew it would be competition every day. I'm being patient with myself, but I can see myself getting better.

GS: What motivates you to become the best you can be?
CM:
I'm very internally motivated and if I don't play well, I know it myself. I'll always take feedback and try to apply it to help my game. But what drives me is that I want to take care of my family one day. I want to thrive in academics, thrive in volleyball and thrive in every aspect of life I can thrive in. I just want to be better than the generation that came before me and make my family proud.

GS: What are you most looking forward to in your freshman year?
CM:
Definitely the first home game at the Pav. But other than that I'm looking forward to it all! I want the full experience and it's coming up so fast.

GS: Are there any games in particular you have marked on your calendar?
CM:
I want to say Texas is going to be a super fun one to play. But really, every game is an important one. I'm excited to play.

GS: Who is Calissa Minatee on the floor?
CM:
I'm very energetic and very aggressive. I'm really good in front and on the slide. I can specialize in the '3' or in the gap.

GS: What do you hope for the team to accomplish this year?
CM:
We definitely want to win the conference and then the big goal being the national title. We want to stick to our values and stay true to them. If we do that, we'll stay together and not fall apart when things get tough.

GS: Off the court, what do you like to do when you're not playing volleyball?
CM:
I definitely like to sit back and relax. I'm more introverted and need my space until I recharge. Me and Arica are kind of the same there. We'll just chill out and watch a show and make something good to eat. I like to make things like my dad (Lester Minatee) does at home. So I make chicken, tacos and anything else he likes to make.

Favorite Food: Fettuccine Alfredo
Musical Artists: Kendrick Lamar and Brickface
Fun Fact: I still listen to Tove Lo
Hidden Talent: I'm very fast at typing up essays and research papers
Sport to Watch: Hockey and Tennis
Pro Sports Team: The Boston Celtics (favorite player is Jayson Tatum)
Vacation Spot: Hawaii
TV Shows: The Mole
Inspiration: My mother
 



Phoebe Awoleye:

She comes in from LMU with two years of eligibility
Phoebe Awoleye is a transfer from Loyola Marymount and has two years of eligibility remaining. She played in 28 matches (104 sets) in 2022 at LMU, tallying 2.13 kills per set (.379 hitting) and 1.39 blocks per set on her way to First Team All-WCC honors. Awoleye helped LMU to an 18-10 (13-5 WCC) record last year as the team made the NCAA Tournament.
GS: Your bio says you're from Georgia, did you live anywhere else when you were younger?
PA:
I was born in New York, but lived in Georgia from middle school through high school. I grew up in England and Nigeria before that. My parents are British-Nigerian and they met in England. My dad grew up in Nigeria more than he grew up in England. My mom is a little bit of both as well. They lived in England for 20 years and we grew up there for a bit before moving to Nigeria for a few years. I still consider Nigeria my home because we used to go there every Christmas, even when we lived in England.

GS: How many siblings do you have?
PA:
I have three siblings - an older sister, Naomi, who's 25, and two younger brothers, Jonathan and David.
Awoleye, Phoebe
Phoebe and her family at her graduation party.GS: Talk about your early childhood, were you always focused on volleyball or did you try other sports too?
PA:
I did a bunch of sports, volleyball wasn't necessarily big in England. It was like track, swimming, tennis and soccer were the big ones. One of my friends in school was always talking about volleyball and I was intrigued by it. I signed up for a clinic before my freshman year of high school at Walton High School. I wore that shirt, which was my sisters, to the clinic. Even though I never played before, I met the head coach of Walton and she wanted me to come to tryouts. They put my on varsity my first year in ninth grade, not to play but just to train. I mean I could barely serve over the net. I was there doing my own thing on a separate court and never got in a game. I had to get a lot better.

GS: It sounds like you were literally starting from square one in your volleyball career in high school. What did you do to try and improve your game?
PA:
I would go to A5 (volleyball club) and to workouts, camps and different training sessions. There was a crossfit trainer there that used to be a marine, and she threw me into the deep end physically to get me into as good of volleyball shape as possible. I could see myself starting to get better, and my serves would usually get over the net in early high school I was like a baby deer just running around and trying to get the ball over. It was definitely a struggle early on.
Awoleye, Phoebe
Phoebe and her LMU teammats celebrate during a match last year.GS: When do remember starting to see yourself getting more comfortable on the court and that you were ready to compete at a higher level?
PA:
I don't think it was a specific day, but it was when I was put in drills and I didn't feel like I was going to mess up all the time. My sophomore year I moved up in club teams and was playing with some of the top players and was feeling more confident. I guess my coaches saw something in me that I could be good, I just needed to keep putting the time in.

GS: When did you start to realize college volleyball could be a possibility?
PA:
It was my sophomore year. I didn't even know what was going on, because my family had never had any experience with going to college for sports. My older sister went to college before me, but she wasn't going for sports so we really had no clue what we were getting into. A5 did a very good job helping me navigate the process and let me know what to expect. Georgia was my first call and it just felt comfortable with them. They were at the top of my list as it was close to home, a good school and good athletic programs. Everything just kind of lined up and I committed my sophomore year summer.

GS: After playing for two years at Georgia, you transferred to Loyola Marymount. How was your experience there?
PA:
I loved it there and had a great experience on and off the court. Loved my coaches and it was such a fun season, we made the NCAA Tournament and I graduated in the spring. I got an internship working in sports there that is going to help set me up for after my volleyball career.

GS: What has been your best collegiate volleyball memory thus far?
PA:
Definitely making the tournament last year at LMU. We were one of the last teams announced during the selection show and we were just super nervous hoping to hear our name called. Once we heard our name called it was such a great feeling to know that all of our hard work paid off and we accomplished the goal we set out to achieve.

GS: After the end of the year, you decided to enter the transfer portal, what went into your decision?
PA:
I honestly didn't know what my future held after last season. Part of me thought I was done playing volleyball and wanted to move into the next step of my career. But I prayed on it and God told me to keep playing, and that's what I wanted to do. The coaching staff at LMU had left for different jobs, so it felt like the time was right to go.

GS: What were the top priorities you had in choosing your new school?
PA:
It had to have the academic program I wanted, it was in a bigger city and it had to have a very good volleyball team.

GS: How did your recruitment to Minnesota go?
PA:
I obviously know [volunteer assistant coach] Kylin [Munoz] as she was at LMU last year. I had met [assistant coach] Eric [Barber] before too and felt a connection there. I got connected to [head coach] Keegan [Cook] and then they wanted me to come take a visit. I had actually planned on taking five visits but after the Minnesota visit, which was my first one, I canceled the rest. I came on campus and met all the girls, coaches and trainer and it all just felt right. A lot of genuine people that care about you. Minnesota just had everything I was looking for, academically, socially and with it being in a big city. I called my mom two days after my visit and told her I'm going to Minnesota and she was super excited.
Awoleye, Phoebe
Phoebe on her official visit to MinnesotaGS: What do you remember most about your visit that helped make your decision?
PA:
I met [junior middle blocker] Arica Davis and just thought she was hilarious. I couldn't stop laughing. But honestly I loved meeting all the girls and they were so welcoming and super easy to get along with. Me and [senior opposite/outside] Lydia [Grote] went on our visit together so we got to talk a lot about Minnesota too. She obviously committed a little bit later but I felt like she was coming to Minnesota too. It just had what both of us were looking for.

GS: You just got here last week, what're your early thoughts on Minnesota during the summer?
PA:
Everyone has been super amazing, it's been so fun. We were all hanging out on Saturday. Obviously people are going to be closer to others but the seniors will text like 'come to my house at this time' and then we're all there hanging out. Even the first night I got here, I just turned 21 and it was my birthday, we all hung out at [senior setter] Melani's [Shaffmaster] place. Everybody was super inclusive and it was so sweet.

GS: What're you most looking forward to in your first year as a Gopher?
PA:
I'm excited to play in the Big Ten and also for our preseason schedule. I'm excited to play at Stanford because I have some family out there coming to watch. Then of course getting to play Texas at home and all the talented Big Ten teams as well.

GS: What goals do you want to accomplish, both with the team and yourself?
PA:
A Big Ten championship would be amazing, and then obviously a national championship would be the biggest goal. Individually I haven't really thought about that much. I just want to be a great addition and bring the extra stuff to the team that can help us win. I don't need to be a big name, but be a consistent and solid player that can help us achieve our goals.

GS: For people that haven't seen you play before, what's a scouting report on your style?
PA:
I can get super amped on the court and the emotions start coming out. There's something about competing that brings it out of me. A lot of passion and a lot of blocks, that's my favorite thing to do on the court. I know that helps the team a lot too.

GS: What about off the court, what do you like to do?
PA:
I'm a big foodie and I plan on trying a lot of restaurants here. I also love the NBA and was watching the NBA Draft. But besides that, I've been doing a lot of research in future careers and what that is going to look like for me. I also love to watch Marvel movies, especially the Spiderman movies. I loved the new one. I also have liked watching 'Love Island' on TV.

Favorite Food: Plantains
Fun Fact: My thumb is naturally double jointed and I can understand Yorùbá (Nigerian language)
Hidden Talent: I can binge Marvel movies and TV shows all day and night
Sport to Watch: Basketball
Pro Sports Team: Los Angeles Lakers (or whatever team LeBron James plays for) and Arsenal FC
Vacation Spot: Dubai
TV Shows: House of Dragons
Inspiration: My parents
 




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