Gophers volleyball transfers are up with the arrival of the 2022 NCAA champion in town

This is the kind of stat that careers and reputations are built on: Keegan Cook hasn’t made a player transfer in eight years as Washington’s volleyball coach.

But days after taking charge of the Gophers, he watched two of Minnesota’s best running backs enter the transfer gate and join the programs’ top picks – middle blocker Carter Booth at Wisconsin and outside hitter Gina Wenas at Texas.

If Cook is not used to losing players at the gate, he shows great interest in finding players there.

The Gophers moved into No. 5 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll this week and have an exhibition game with the Wenaas and the No. 7 Longhorns at Maturi Pavilion on Tuesday night.

On the heels of two convincing wins over TCU and No. 16 Baylor, Minnesota made a quick turnaround against the defending national champion Longhorns. Texas opened the season ranked No. 1 and was shocked in the season opener, losing in four sets to Long Beach State.

Wenaas returns to Maturi Pavilion two days after Booth played there in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge at Wisconsin. If it was a reminder of who left the Gophers behind, their transitions made it easier.

Kylie Moore was a no-brainer addition to the libero. She is a player defining Ohio State’s program and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Two other additions, middle blocker Phoebe Owley of Loyola Marymount and counter-hitter Lydia Groote of Cal, were probably only familiar to deeply knowledgeable college volleyball fans.

This is about to change.

“I told them all through training camp, you belong here, especially those who don’t have as much familiarity with the (Big Ten) as Lydia and Phoebe,” Cook said. “They have definitely shown that… a very impressive start to their career.”

All three are seniors—although Grote and Ollie have another year of eligibility—experienced and with high expectations. Their presence creates mutual benefits. They have to compete against a team that already includes players like Taylor Landfair, McKenna Wucherer and Melanie Shaffmaster, and their additions mean the roster can compete with anyone.

“I only have six months left in university volleyball, and I want to win a national championship,” Al-Murr said. “This team has him, and I know there are other girls on the team who want the same things. That was really important to me.”

The first weekend of play gave a glimpse of how the three transfers intertwine.

Awoleye was a catch for defense against TCU and Baylor, finishing with 16 blocks. It is a small specimen, but it currently ranks first in the country with 2.29 pieces per cluster. She builds walls with her teammates but is also effective in individual play, looking out for opposing attackers, tracking their swings and locking them in.

Grote started both games and tallied 13 kills, second behind Wucherer (30) and Landfair (16) for the Gophers. But the way she handled her role on Saturday against Baylor gave a hint of how this list might work. Grote made two early errors, and Cook replaced Lauren Kroll, who was excellent in two sets. Grote remained on the bench until late in the third set. With the Gophers up 16-11, she came back and recorded three kills and a block to help complete the sweep.

After leading Cal in kills last season, Grote knew coming to Minnesota would bring changes. It will not always be the focal point of the crime.

“It doesn’t mean I can’t play a good role on this team,” she said. “I’m always hardworking, and I’ll always do my best for my team. That hasn’t changed.”

As for the bitter? I did bitter things. High energy, high communication, high skill level. With 40 digs and 15 assists, she was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Monday. She considers herself a student of the game with a great volleyball IQ and a penchant for studying opponents long before a match starts. He is the type of personality that can influence the entire team.

“We don’t have just one answer,” Murr said. “We have seven. And we have seven more on the bench. No one has to be at their best for us to win. I think if we all play really well and are together, the good things will be the best.” it will happen.”

Cook has created real depth – his 11 players made legitimate contributions last weekend in overcoming two strong teams.

“If you don’t give these people opportunities, you will never know, but adversity will come our way,” he said. “Whether it’s (Tuesday) or in the future. You’d better have a Plan B, C, D, and E.”

Blending all of these plans will continue to be just as important as the competition.

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