STrib: How the Gophers Rewire the Nations Top Volleyball Recruits

Ignatius L Hoops

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Sep 9, 2015
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Jeff Day:

Maturi Pavilion sat quiet and cavernous in January as three of the best prep volleyball players in America stepped onto its parquet.

They had come from Prior Lake, Colorado and Wisconsin cloaked in accolades and accomplishment. They had graduated from high school early to enroll at the University of Minnesota for spring practice. And they were about to forget everything they knew about the sport they had dominated their entire lives.

Carter Booth, Julia Hanson and McKenna Wucherer were placing their young careers in the hands of one of this state's most successful collegiate athletic programs to have their foundational understanding of the game ripped out from under them.

They did this willingly because the reward could be so great.

In a decade under coach Hugh McCutcheon, the Gophers volleyball team has reached three NCAA Final Fours, five Elite Eights and nine Sweet 16s. Anyone joining the program would have a chance to play electrifying fall nights before capacity crowds and national TV audiences.

Booth was a first-team All-America from Denver. Hanson was the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year. Wucherer, of Brookfield, Wis., was rated as the nation's No. 1 recruit for 2022. But whatever they had previously accomplished got left at the door.

It was not so much an arrival, it was starting over.

Standing inside the Pavilion on that frigid winter morning, they were about to embark on three months of painstaking physiological study of the sport from McCutcheon and his staff. They were about to join some of the best players in the country to put that study into effect. They were about to learn how your very best can be greater than perfection.

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