Gopher Sports: Know the Gophers 2023

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Elise McGhie

McGhie is a senior setter from Kansas City, Mo.
Elise McGhie is a senior setter from Kansas City, Mo. She transferred from Kansas in the spring of 2022 and played in 28 matches (93 sets) last fall for Minnesota. She averaged .40 digs and 0.16 aces per set as a junior.

GS: What activities and sports were you involved with as a kid?
EM:
At first I was not the sporty type at all. My parents had me do tennis and swimming/diving but they were just things to keep me occupied after school. In third grade all the cool kids were playing basketball, but I wanted to be different. It's kind of funny because I didn't really think about myself as an athlete. In fourth grade is where I tried volleyball for my school team, so that's where my journey in the sport started. I still played softball and basketball as a kid but I got cut from the soccer team, which was unfortunate because a lot of my friends did that.

GS: What did your parents think about you starting to focus on volleyball as you went into middle school and high school?
EM:
My dad (Andrew) thought my sister (Brynne) and I were gone too much as we were always practicing for hours a night and staying up late having to get our homework done. I think he thought we were supposed to be focusing on school and not sports so much. Then I started getting recruited to play in college and kept getting better and better, and he realized it could really take me somewhere.
McGhie, Elise
Elise and her family at her sister's high school graduation.GS: When did you know that volleyball was going to be something you pursued after high school?
EM:
I always wanted to play volleyball in college (I realized I was too short to be a basketball star). My mom played in college and other girls around me growing up did, so I thought I could totally do that. When I was a freshman in high school I would tell people I was going to play in college. Other people thought I should just focus on my studies, I was only 5'6" so it seemed far-fetched. I switched club teams in high school and I made one of the top club teams with Dynasty in Kansas City. I eventually worked my way into playing time there and started becoming a key player.

GS: What was your recruiting process like?
EM:
I honestly felt really behind because as a sophomore I didn't really understand what college recruiting was because I was coming from a small club. I was sending emails to college coaches all over and just fighting for a little bit of attention. It took a lot of work to be able to get coaches to know about me and come see me. My mom played at Rockhurst (Division II) in Kansas City. I knew the coach and they offered me a spot on the team when I was a junior in high school. But I would send like 100 emails to coaches and would maybe hear back from three or four. So it was super nerve-wracking but it obviously paid off in the end.

GS: You eventually committed to Kansas in high school, how did your recruitment there go?
EM:
I got in touch with them through my club recruiting coordinator and one of their assistants came and watched me. I started the process after that with them and ended up committing towards the end of my junior year of high school. It was an awesome feeling to commit to my home state school.

GS: What were your favorite memories about your experience as a Jayhawk?
EM:
I loved being able to compete with my teammates and play at a really high level in Division I volleyball. I was playing with some amazing players in the Big 12 and got to set out of a 5-1. I already had 1,000 assists before I came to Minnesota so I was super grateful for the experience.

GS: You decided to enter the transfer portal after your second year at Kansas. How much different was your transfer portal recruiting process?
EM:
I went into the transfer portal on Dec. 15 of 2021 and then I knew I needed to find somewhere to go within a few weeks. It felt like I needed a miracle to happen to find a good school that I liked that needed a setter. I remember [former head coach] Hugh [McCutcheon] texting me and being shocked to see his name in my phone. I was feeling so defeated before that and scared I wouldn't have anywhere to go. But seeing his name, I was so excited. We set up a phone call and just talked about everything. The team had a couple setters, but really wanted to add some depth and they said they'd love to have me. I had never been to Minnesota before, but I knew it was a legit program. It honestly seemed too good to be true.
McGhie, Elise
Elise with her parents, Andrew and Tricia, after the Illinois game last season.GS: What was your visit to Minnesota like?
EM:
I came up here on Jan. 3 and saw everything, the facilities and met the coaches. All the girls were gone besides [former All-American libero] CC [McGraw], but I still really enjoyed it. After the visit me and my mom went to The Graduate hotel and decided right there I should do this. I called Hugh and committed right there in the hotel.

GS: So you committed on Jan. 3 and then a few weeks later you were moving your whole life to the Twin Cities. What was that adjustment like?
EM:
Yeah it was definitely a little tough because I really knew no one besides like over Facetime calls. For a little bit, that was scary to leave my family and friends in Kansas. It took a few months for me to hit my groove - with practice, academics and of course socially. But once I did I was just so happy and it's been such a good experience. I love Minnesota and getting to play in the Pav. I'm not taking any of this experience for granted.

GS: You come to Minnesota, have a great first year experience and then you get the news there is a coaching change. How were you feeling at that time?
EM:
I knew a head coaching change was a big thing, especially since I came to Minnesota and had a different coach than I had for my first two years of college. The head coach just dictates so much with the program and how the day-to-day life looks. I was sad too because I really appreciate Hugh, Matt, Jenni and Pedro and everything they did for me. At the end of the day, I totally get and respected the decision though, everyone had to do what was best for them.

Talk about your experience with the team in Hawaii, how beneficial was that in helping the relationships with the staff and your teammates?
EM:
It was great because we were only at eight hours per week before that so it gave everyone a chance to get to spend more time together and get to know each other. We just had so many conversations and the car rides, beach time, going out to eat, it was all important for that relationship aspect.

What excites you most about the upcoming 2023 season?
EM:
I'm really excited about our team and the girls we have. Obviously we got some super key additions too. It's a different team than last year with a lot of our personnel and our coaches. I'm just excited to see how all the new pieces come together as the season goes on. I love the season and it's always fun to travel and be in the competitive environment.

What did you learn in your first season with the Gophers in 2022?
EM:
The Big Ten is super competitive. There's no such thing as an off week and no one you can take lightly. All of the teams are so talented. Every game we need to go in and take care of business, there's no time to chill. We have to be locked in every game. But it's an honor to play here and in the Big Ten.
McGhie, Elise
Elise was joined by her family and friends after last year's win at Nebraska.What does the team hope to achieve this year?
EM:
Of course the concrete goals like a Big Ten and national championship are the big ones. But also I'd really like to see our team grow as a group through the whole year. In August and September we need to keep improving our team chemistry and become one complete unit. Not that we aren't right now, but with a new group that's something that can take some time.

What do you like to do off the court?
EM:
I go to class and do a lot of homework. In my freetime, I like to go downtown, go on walks or go to the lake. I love being in Minnesota and there's always so much to do here, especially in the summer. I have my bike here too so I like to do that when I get the chance. I also like to travel and go see friends and family, I got to see one of my best friends in Sioux Falls this summer, which was fun.

Favorite Food: Ice Cream and Enchiladas (not together)
Hidden Talent: I am a really good skier and love to do karaoke
Sport to Watch: Wrestling and Football
Fun Fact: I can remember song lyrics very well
Netflix Show: New Girl
Vacation Spot: Australia
Inspiration: My parents
 

Anyone have stats or remember if Murr is a tough server
 


Lauren Crowl:

Crowl is a redshirt sophomore from Eagan, Minn.
Lauren Crowl is a redshirt junior opposite from Eagan, Minn., and Eastview High School. After redshirting in 2021, she played in 11 matches (29 sets), tallying 1.28 points and 0.93 kills per set as a redshirt freshman in 2022. Defensively, she posted 0.59 blocks and 0.34 digs per set. Crowl totaled a career-high seven kills in a four-set win over Purdue on Oct. 22.

In addition to volleyball, what activities were you involved with when you were a kid?
LC:
I remember my parents made me try basketball but I was never big into that. I was big into hockey and volleyball from a young age. In hockey, I was a goalie when I played mites and youth hockey and then I switched to defense in middle school. I stopped playing hockey in high school when I got more serious about playing volleyball.

Do your teammates ever ask about your hockey career? I can imagine not many others played hockey growing up.
LC:
The biggest time they do is when we're at a Gopher women's or men's hockey game. The new coaching staff had a lot of questions about it too, especially [assistant coaches] Kylin [Munoz] and Eric [Barber].

Your older brother Steven is a senior in college and he plays basketball at Wisconsin. Were you two close growing up as kids?
LC:
Oh we were always together when we were kids. We'd always play sports and games together with the other kids in our neighborhood. As we got more serious into our sports our schedules started getting busier, but we'd still go to each other's games and support one another in any way we can.
Crowl, Lauren
Lauren with her brother Steven last year.Were your parents athletes growing up?
LC:
My mom (Stephanie) played basketball in high school and my dad (Jeff) played sports in high school too. They did not play in college.

Was you family always Minnesotan's or did they live anywhere else?
LC:
I've grown up in Minnesota my whole life. My dad's family moved here from Maryland, so we still have plenty of relatives that live there. When we go to Maryland this year, I'll have some extra fan support in the crowd!

When did you start to realize you could play volleyball at a high level?
LC:
I would say 14 or 15. When I was 12 and 13 I was definitely not the best player on my team. I just kept getting better, year-by-year. In club I took a big step late in middle school and my first year or high school. I kept growing, height-wise, as a freshman and sophomore in high school, and a lot of people stopped growing then.

In high school you played at Eastview for head coach Becky Egan, who excelled at the college level (played for the Gophers from 1994-97). Was it helpful to have her in your corner to navigate the recruiting process?
LC:
She was definitely helpful. For Minnesota, I had watched Gopher volleyball growing up and was obviously familiar with the program. I had an interest to represent my home state, but for awhile I thought I wanted to go elsewhere and see something different. She just let me know campus could be as close or as far away from home as I made it. That helped me solidify my decision.
Crowl, Lauren
Lauren with her mom (Stephanie), dad (Jeff) and brother (Steven) at her high school graduation.
What separated Minnesota from the other schools in your recruiting process?
LC:
When I came on my visit, everything felt super natural. I was comfortable with the team, campus and the coaching staff. I knew it was the place for me. I love being a Golden Gopher.

You're going on year three here at Minnesota, but your first with coach Cook and the new staff. How was the adjustment period for you this spring?
LC:
I feel like the biggest part for me was the relationships and getting to know everyone. The more we've built trust, the better things have gone on the court. Of course learning the new systems takes time and repetitions too.

What do you think the biggest area of growth in your game has been this offseason?
LC:
My footwork and technique – but I've just been trying to approve every part of my game.

Heading into the season, what excites you most about your third year as a Golden Gopher?
LC:
I'm honestly just looking forward to competing with the team. This is a really good group and we have great relationships. We've built connections throughout the spring and summer, so I want to see that translate onto the court.

Are there any games in particular that you're looking forward to this season?
LC:
I've checked out the schedule a little bit. Nebraska at home at the end of the season and Wisconsin on the road. Both of them are great teams and they're fun to play.
Crowl, Lauren
Lauren and her parents at the Pav last season.What do you hope for the team to accomplish this season?
LC:
Big Ten title and a national title. Those would be amazing accomplishments.

What would it mean for you as a Minnesota native to be a part of the first Gopher team to win it all?
LC:
It would be a honor to be able to represent the state and school on that stage. Especially doing it with some of my best friends.

What do you enjoy most about playing home games at Minnesota?
LC:
The fans and the support the team brings in is unmatched. It's a surreal experience and I'm grateful for every game here. It's hard to describe being in that moment. But it feels amazing.

What do you like to do off the court?
LC:
I love to go out to eat with friends and just spend time with the people I care about. I like to travel too (Hawai'i and Grand Cayman are favorite spots). I love being out on the lake as well. A few of my teammates and I like going to trivia with some of the guys on the wrestling team.

Favorite Food: Ice Cream or Filet Mignon
Favorite Sport to Watch: College Football and Basketball
Fun Fact: I went to the state tournament in hockey but never volleyball in high school
Netflix Show: Friday Night Lights
Pro Sports Team: Minnesota Vikings
Vacation Spot: Anywhere warm with a beach
Inspiration: Parents
 


Arica Davis

Davis is a junior middle from Hillsborough, N.C.
Arica Davis is a junior middle from Hillsborough, N.C. She played in 18 matches (48 sets) in 2022 during her first year as a Golden Gopher. Davis averaged 1.17 kills and 1.23 blocks per set. She tallied season-highs in kills (8) at Wisconsin on Oct. 29 and blocks (8) vs. SE Louisiana on Dec. 2.

Take us through your childhood. Where did you grow up?
AD:
I was born in Chapel Hill, N.C., so when I was young, I was repping the UNC Tarheels all the way. Campus is like five minutes from my house so we'd always go to volleyball, football and basketball games there. I'm actually the only one in my family that was born there though. My dad is from Brooklyn, mom is from South Carolina and my sister was born in Nashville.

How about your high school career?
AD:
I went to school a little bit in Hillsborough, N.C., before going to a private school called Trinity in Durham, N.C. I ended up transferring to North Raleigh Christian Academy for my final two years of high school, which is where I got my degree. It was a little bit short of an hour drive from my family's house. It ended up being the perfect school for me because I found some great friends there and a lot of the girls I played club with were there as well.
Davis, Arica
Davis and her parents at her high school graduation.What other activities were you involved with as a kid?
AD:
My parents immersed my sister and I in a ton of different things. I used to play basketball, gymnastics, did jazz and balet, tap dancing.

You have an older sister named Alyssa who is one of the people who got you into volleyball. How did that process go?
AD:
If you go by the books, I was always looking up to her and doing what she did. I went to the same school and hung out with a lot of the same people when we were younger. We went to the same middle school and she started playing volleyball. It looked fun, but at the time I was crazy obsessed with band. Me and my best friend were battling for first chair in clarinet, so we were focused on competing in that every day. Anyways, one day, my older sister played for Triangle Volleyball Club and they needed an extra person on their U13 team. I didn't know how to play besides going to the UNC volleyball camps during the summers. But the team needed a player and it was a free trip down to Florida, so I decided to play. I had the absolute time of my life with those girls, even though I didn't know what I was doing. The girls on my team convinced me to tryout for their actual team for the future, and I didn't know if I was ready for that commitment.

What made you decide to stick with it?
AD:
At tryouts they had me go with the middles, and I ended up making the top team. I expected to make the third team with a bunch of the girls that I played in the tournament with. So it was the last thing I was expecting to make the best team, but the competitor in me was excited. That really got me into volleyball. A year or so later, schools were reaching out to me in eighth grade (before the rules changed) and the rest is history.
Davis, Arica
Arica with her sister and parents as little kids.How did your recruiting process go?
AD:
I didn't know a ton about the college recruiting process until around ninth grade. My parents kept a lot of the letters from me so I could stay focused, as eighth grade is very young for all of that. When I was in ninth grade, my mom and I went through letters and did a 'yes,' 'no' and 'maybe' piles of schools I would consider. After that, I started taking some visits. At times I was enamored after a visit and I think I wanted to commit on every visit. My parents were my voice of reason, and they would always make sure my head was in the right place and I thought through things clearly.

You eventually decided on Ohio State and had a very successful rookie year, making the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and being named the AVCA Northeast Region Freshman of the Year. What was your favorite memory about that first year?
AD:
I really enjoyed my teammates there and getting to play your first year in the Big Ten was super fun.

You entered the transfer portal after the fall of 2021. What made Minnesota stand out in that process as a school you were considering?
AD:
Originally, I reached out to the Minnesota staff through email and let them know I was interested. I told them my whole story and we set up a phone call with the rest of the staff. We quickly set up a visit and my mom and I flew out to Minnesota. Before I even got to campus, though, I had a phone call with [redshirt junior] Taylor [Landfair]. I told her that I'm sorry that she had to talk with me, because she probably didn't want to talk to a recruit, but she was amazing. She's the absolute sweetest person ever. We talked on the phone for like 45 minutes, straight 'girl talk.' She wasn't sugar coating anything and just kept it real. After talking with her, I remember looking at my mom and being really excited about going to Minnesota.

What eventually led you to choose Minnesota?
AD:
We went to a Soul Food place in Minneapolis that was so good. The coaching staff also made me feel very comfortable. They were very confident and I felt like this was the right place for me. Besides that, I had been watching Stephanie Samedy since I was in eighth grade. She is a huge inspiration for little me, seeing a black woman like that absolutely dominating the game. It made me want to be an inspiration to other girls that look like me as well. Minnesota seemed to be the perfect place.

2022 was your first season at Minnesota. What was your greatest success and your biggest challenge that you overcame?
AD:
I think my greatest success was kind of adjusting to a different dynamic of how practices go. I was very open-minded and the more the semester went on, the more I was able to be coachable. Even when I would completely fumble it, I would keep going in headstrong. I really connected with my teammates and I think they started to trust me and I take that as an accomplishment as well. Some challenges were not comparing myself to others. But that's really hard, especially on a big stage with so many good players around you. Even when you are competing with other people, self-sabotage can trickle in. What I learned is that even though you're competing for a spot, things are going to work out one way or another. As long as I worked as hard as a I could, I could find peace in that.
Davis, Arica
Davis and her family last year at the Austin, Texas regional.At the end of 2022, you really became a fixture in the starting lineup and had been playing very well. Obviously after the season ended, a coaching change had to be made. How did you deal with that period of time?
AD:
I had to do a little soul-searching with what I wanted to do. I took a step back after the semester ended, and when I went home I never found myself thinking that I didn't want to come back to Minnesota. I didn't have a reason to leave. I feel like I've just given myself to this program and I have a lot more to give. [Athletic Director] Mark Coyle kept the team super updated throughout the process and let us know how things were going every step of the way. I trusted him.

From hearing your interactions at practice this spring, it seemed like you really hit it off with the new staff as well.
AD:
Don't even get me started! I work a lot with [assistant coaches] Ky and Eric, and they are the most kind, energetic people I've ever met. They're like a second form of my parents. Kylin [Munoz] has taught me so much about blocking already, so she's been amazing. Not only does she have that technique that she's been pushing on me since day one, but she has that energetic and bubbly spirit that makes me want to be coached by her. With Eric, those two together are so dynamic and vibrant. At the same time, they can be very stern and serious, and you can tell that their intentions are so pure and so positive. They're amazing people, the whole staff is.

How do you feel heading into the 2023 season?
AD:
I honestly feel great. I feel so stable and I can really be myself. I'm just so excited for this year.

What goals do you have for your team and yourself this year?
AD:
I think we can go win it all, we have what it takes. But there's so much it takes. You have to be so good and of course there's a little luck to it. We of course want to win the Big Ten title. We have some big time games coming up, so the competition is going to be crazy. For myself, I really want to have a great year blocking. I'm at the stage of my career that when something goes my way, I know what I need to do to adjust and fix my mistakes. I've always been known as a fast, dynamic and torque player, but I feel like I've improved so much and I'm excited to show that. I plan on being more dynamic, more intentional and absolutely giving 110% every game. I won't shy away from celebrating our team's successes.

Off the court, what do you like to do when you're not playing volleyball?
AD:
I love to go on walks and heading to parks. I always have music on and have my digital camera with me taking pictures. One of my best friends here is named Lauren, and we always go thrifting and to good food spots. We have picnics by the lake all the time and just enjoy each other's company. I love getting Wrecktangle pizza as well. That and I love to go to movies.

Favorite Food: Salad and Bacon Cheeseburgers
Favorite Sport to Watch: Men's College Basketball and Women's Softball
Fun Facts: I'm a great roller skater (four wheels)
Hidden Talent: Guessing what people's Zodiac signs are
Netflix Show: Outer Banks
Pro Sports Team: New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers
Vacation Spot: Bahamas
Inspiration: My parents
 





Skylar Gray:

Gray is a junior libero/defensive specialist from Maple Grove
Skylar Gray is a junior libero/defensive specialist from Maple Grove, Minn. She's played in three matches in the last couple seasons and is looking to take the next step as a junior.

What were the first activities that you played growing up?
SG:
I did a little bit of everything. Basketball, tee-ball, gymnastics, dance, soccer, kind of like the whole nine yards. Right across the building from where I was playing soccer, other girls were playing volleyball. So I told my dad I wanted to try it. My parents had me wait until I was eight, and when I tried it, it just clicked. I really enjoyed it and had a different feeling about the sport.

How soon did you go 'all in' on volleyball?
SG:
I'd say I did a couple years of other activities before I committed to volleyball. I wasn't very good at first, but when I started improving I just didn't want to stop playing. I loved it. When I was 12 I started playing club and that's when I just said, 'this is going to be my sport.'
Skylar Gray
Skylar playing club volleyball growing up.Off the court, did you have other hobbies you did when you were young?
SG:
I was in the orchestra and I played the viola. I did that for 2-3 years and stopped in eighth grade. It got to be too demanding and I liked volleyball more.

Tell us about your family. You have a younger sister?
SG:
Yes so I have a younger sister named Rylie. She is going to be a sophomore in high school. She's very much an artistic, musically inclined person. She loves to draw, paint, play music, including guitar and piano. She's insanely talented. Even though she's my younger sister, I really admire her and the way she puts herself into different activities. Everyone used to ask her if she wanted to play volleyball, but she was never into it. Rylie is very much her own person and I really respect that about her. We're very close and a big reason I stayed close to home for college is that I can be there for her and be close to family.

How about your parents?
SG:
My dad (Jamison), mom (Stephanie) and my sister and I are all very close. My dad is the one that got me into sports - he did karate, soccer and baseball when he was younger. Now, he works at a company called Circana, where he provides insights to other companies with how to improve their products and sales. He's very smart and I learn a ton from him. He actually is the head coach at Maple Grove for the volleyball team. He had no volleyball experience in his life, but was around it when I was growing up and started learning the sport. My mom stayed at home to be there for me and Rylie growing up, which was super nice. She was always there to help us and support us in any way possible. She's not a huge sports person, but she came to every game, which made me really happy. If she ever misses a game now (which doesn't happen often), there is a really good reason.

Back to volleyball - when did you start to realize you could have a future in the sport?
SG:
When I was 12. I played on 12's teams when I was 10 and I just kept getting better. I felt like I could be myself and it felt so natural. When I was 15, I realized its what I wanted to pursue in college.
Skylar Gray
Skylar poses with her parents during her freshman year.When did you start to get recruited? How did your process with Minnesota go?
SG:
I was going into my freshman year of high school. I did a lot of reaching out to schools around the Midwest. Minnesota wasn't initially in the mix because I wasn't sure if I was good enough yet. But they did eventually reach out first. I was sitting in one of my classes freshman year and my dad called me. I was like 'why is he calling me during school?' And I call him back and he told me that we were going on a visit to Minnesota that day. So at the end of the day they picked me up and we went right to the Pav. We saw campus and talked with the coaches, and they eventually decided they wanted to offer me a spot. I was an outside in high school, but they said they saw me as a DS/libero type of player in college. I was so excited and I was 'fan-girling' a little bit inside. I was so shocked because I really hadn't heard from them before that. I wanted to say 'yes' on the spot, but I went home that day and discussed it with my parents. They supported me 100% and wanted to make this work for me, so I committed within a couple weeks after. It felt so good to have the process done.

When you first got to college, what was the biggest adjustment for you?
SG:
I'd say it was the lifting, which is very hard. In the summer we train super hard in the weight room, so getting used to lifting everyday was new. I hadn't lifted consistently before, so it was a lot of hard work. I felt like I was getting better in the weight room and I saw that translate to the court. I also took a summer class, so that was different having an academic commitment during that time of year. At the same time, it was a good early transition to college and it helped me meet other student-athletes from different sports.

Going in and playing your first college game against St. Thomas, how were you feeling heading in?
SG:
I was so nervous and so excited at the same time. It was a moment of appreciation that I had. I worked so hard to be here, and now I am here and I'm a part of it with all of these wonderful people. The amazing crowd, the amazing staff, I remember being just so grateful for that moment. Actually getting in the game felt so much different than practice though. The first couple points, I was a little overstimulated. After that, I settled in and it just became super fun. It was nice being there and knowing everyone there believes in you. It boosted my confidence knowing I had put the work in and was ready to play.

For the first couple years of college, you were behind a two-time All-American in CC McGraw and another really good player in Rachel Kilkelly. What was your mindset during that time?
SG:
Coming in, I knew both CC and Rachel were very good athletes that had obviously established their roles on the court.. I knew I probably wasn't going to have a lot of playing time at first. They had more time in practice and developing their skills at the college level. Plus I had to go from playing mostly outside to then going and focusing on my defense as a specialist. So it was a little tough. But what kind of helped me is just thinking about getting better everyday and knowing that you're helping prepare the team for battle in practice every single day. When you do get to play, you have to cherish the opportunity because you have to earn it. I'm also super appreciative because I got to learn from CC and Rachel and see how they did things. They'd always give me advice and help me out. Rachel was in a similar position as me early in her career, being behind CC at first. She just told me to keep working through it and that you're just as valuable as anyone else here.

Going into this spring, you were the only libero on the roster and you had a huge opportunity to play. How did embrace the spring season?
SG:
I guess the first thing I have to say is it was really, really fun. Even when it was hard. When you're on the court, it's harder to see the things that aren't working well. When you're on the bench, you can kind of look at things from a different view. It had been a really long time since I had played in a full game, so playing libero I got to have a huge role and see a ton of action. I felt like my game elevated so much in the spring and I felt more confident in my abilities. It could have gone one of two ways. Either I could look at it like 'I'm the only libero here, so I can't mess it up, I have to be perfect,' or I could be like 'I can just go out here and do my best, what do I have to lose?' What really helped me is the coaching staff. They would all encourage me and give me feedback to make sure I was at my best. I don't know if I've ever had that much fun playing volleyball before.
Skylar Gray
Skylar played extended time at libero for Minnesota this spring.You've practiced against some of the best outside hitters in the country the last couple years. How much better do you feel like that's made you in trying to play against them?
SG:
It was such a huge adjustment, as the hitters I played against in high school couldn't hit the ball half as hard. So it was a lot of reading and scouting players to make sure we were seeing the game better and set us up for success. I have been hit in the face a couple times, so you learn really fast to get your hands up. Making sure I'm giving effort to every ball and anticipating where they're going to go is so important. You have to give effort 100% of the time, that's Minnesota volleyball.

What's it been like working with fellow libero Kylie Murr, who transferred in this summer from Ohio State?
SG:
She is so so good. I've learned so much from her already. The way her attitude is, it's contagious. CC was great and now obviously we have another great player here. The way that she carries herself and her knowledge of the game is so vast. If she has something on her mind, she's going to say it. I think that's something our team really needed. She doesn't beat around the bush. It's really motivating to have her as a leader because the way she says things, you know it's because she wants to win and help our team succeed in any way possible. I'm super excited to have her here this season and working with her.

What are you most looking forward to this season?
SG:
I'm really looking forward to seeing how all the work we've done comes to fruition. Our team values, our systems and our team camaraderie will all be put to the test. We've gotten a lot closer this summer as a team and I'm super excited to see how that translates to the court. Everyone is here to help one another get better. It seems like we have a really good group of girls.

Are there any games you're really looking forward to this season?
SG:
I'm really looking forward to playing at Stanford because we've never been there before.

What are your goals this year, both team and individual?
SG:
I want us to make it to the Final Four. It would just be an amazing experience on a huge stage. Individually, I would like to hopefully earn a spot on the court, potentially in a DS role, kind of like Rachel was last year. Either way, I'm super excited to be a part of this team and I can't wait for everything to begin.

Off the court, what do you like to do?
SG:
I like to go home a lot and spend time with family. I like to paddle board with my sister, mini-golfing, going to movies. I've started crocheting recently, so I really enjoy that. I also like to do anything outside, like swimming and boating.
Skylar
Skylar's pet snake, SunburstFavorite Food: Cashew Chicken
Favorite Sport to Watch: Gymnastics
Fun Facts: I have a pet albino corn snake named Sunburst
Hidden Talent: I'm really good at Pottery
Netflix Show: Resident Alien
Pro Sports Team: Athletes Unlimited
Vacation Spot: Hawai'i
Inspiration: My parents
 




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