Gibbemeyer leading in more ways than one

The junior continues to grow in a prominent role in the Gophers’ front court.

Aleutian Calabay

Being the captain of a highly ranked team is no easy task. As junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer has continually learned, the leadership position is something earned, never granted. Gibbemeyer came to the Gophers as a hometown prodigy out of Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul. As a four-time letter winner, she was the No. 4-ranked high school senior in the country according to prepvolleyball.com. Gibbemeyer never used past success to push her own status. Instead she has continually pushed herself, working day in and day out to make herself and the team better. âÄúLauren has grown considerably since she was a freshman in the areas of leadership, maturity and seeing the big picture,âÄù Gophers head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúShe provides a stable voice for us in the locker room. She has become the competitive leader of our team; sheâÄôs one of our most consistent players, and she comes every night to play hard and to play to win.âÄù Since starting her Minnesota career two years ago, Gibbemeyer has already amassed a number of accomplishments. Following the 2008 season, Gibbemeyer was named to the third-team All-America, first-team All-Big Ten and academic All-Big Ten. She also earned the Minnesota Alumni Award for team MVP. Gibbemeyer has also already left her mark in a number of statistical categories. Her 174 blocks in 2008 was the second highest total in Gophers history. Other notable numbers from last season include her 143 block assists, good for third all-time and 1.39 blocks per game average, sixth in team history. It would be an understatement to say that Gibbemeyer has been efficient offensively. Her current 0.322 hitting percentage is fourth all-time in Minnesota history. GibbemeyerâÄôs numbers have only continued to get better into this season. Her hitting percentage of 0.419 and 1.44 blocks per game average are both currently third in Big Ten play. She is also eighth in the conference in points, averaging 4.13 per game. But statistics donâÄôt provide leadership on the court. Where Gibbemeyer continues to shine is incorporating each individual into a team effort. âÄúVolleyball is a very communication oriented sport,âÄù senior Christine Tan said. âÄúI think Lauren does a great job of saying the right things between points and communicating to her teammates not only what we need to do to work on for the next play, but also being supportive of her teammates.âÄù Communication is something Gibbemeyer excels at off the court too, from speaking with potential recruits to helping a teammate work on a struggling aspect of her game. âÄúLauren was very welcoming right from the start,âÄù freshman Tabitha Love said. âÄúIf we were ever having a hard time, she would pull us aside and talk us through it. She demonstrates such strong leadership qualities that we all feed off of it. When IâÄôm playing with her, it makes me want to be a better player.âÄù The admiration of Gibbemeyer extends well beyond the borders of Minnesota. Following his teamâÄôs three-set win over the Gophers two weekends ago, Penn State head coach Russ Rose couldnâÄôt help but mention his high opinion of Gibbemeyer. He said she will someday make the coaches of the U.S. national team look much better upon her arrival. GibbemeyerâÄôs infectious personality continues to be a strength for the Gophers, and she shows that leadership is more than a matter of showing up on time and working hard. It can also be dancing in the team huddle before a match and doing whatever it takes to get the team psyched up. âÄúSometimes I get so excited I just have to show it,âÄù said Gibbemeyer. âÄúI think it helps get our team fired up and motivated. IâÄôll throw one of my fist pumps in the air and start screaming, and I think that people can feed off that energy and it makes a positive impact.âÄù The No. 9 Gophers (15-5 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) started the season hot with the help of Gibbemeyer. If Minnesota can improve on last seasonâÄôs Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament exit, GibbemeyerâÄôs play âÄî and leadership âÄî will likely be a big reason why.