Tapp improving with playing time

Paige Tapp has played in more sets this year than she did all of last season.

Rachel Timmerman

As the Gophers near the start of the conference season, sophomore middle blocker Paige Tapp is emerging as a force at the net.

Tapp was awarded her first Big Ten weekly honor Monday — defensive player of the week.

“[The honor] is indicative of how much she’s contributing in that role,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

The accolade comes from her performance this past weekend in Toledo, Ohio, at the Rocket Invitational, where she set a new career-high with 10 blocks against IPFW on Saturday.

She also had 14 kills and committed only one error in 23 attempts over the weekend, and McCutcheon said she was much more assertive with her blocking.

“Every week, she’s made significant improvement,” McCutcheon said. “She’s done really well.”

The connection between Tapp and sophomore setter Erica Handley has been evident this season.

“That two-way trust has really been building,” Handley said.

That trust will be necessary as the Gophers begin Big Ten play against strong conference opponents.

“Every match in this conference is a battle,” McCutcheon said.

Heading into Wednesday’s matchup with Ohio State, Tapp said the team has been working on its discipline and defense.

Individually, Tapp said she’s been working on her footwork in practice to help improve the team’s defense.

“[Footwork] leads to better touches on the ball,” Tapp said. “Even though it doesn’t seem directly related, I think that’s the most important thing.”

McCutcheon said Tapp is diligent and talented, and Handley said she’s seen Tapp working on small improvements in practice.

“Paige is very hardworking,” McCutcheon said. “We’re very proud of her accomplishment.”