Hagen sets pace for record-breaking Gophers

Brian Stensaas

The Minnesota volleyball media guide lists Stephanie Hagen as “the most improved player on the team and arguably the most improved in the Big Ten.”
And now, maybe the nation will agree.
Hagen was given both Big Ten and AVCA National Player of the Week honors for her efforts in last weekend’s road wins against then No. 11 Penn State and Indiana.
The wins pushed Minnesota to 15-0 (the longest current winning streak in Division I) and bumped the Gophers to No. 5 in the nation, the highest ranking in school history.
“What can you say, she deserves it,” Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said. “I’m happy she garnered this kind of recognition, particularly after being left off the preseason All-Big Ten team.”
The recent recognition isn’t entirely new for Hagen. She finished last season by being named to the All-Big Ten team, the NCAA All-Regional team and as an AVCA All-District member.
But the national player of the week was something Hagen never expected.
“I never thought about it — it never really crossed my mind,” Hagen said. “I never thought I would get this.”
The 6-3 middle blocker got the job done on both sides of the net over the weekend. Hagen amassed 43 kills — an average of 6.14 kills per game on offense. She also averaged 3.14 digs per game and 1.29 blocks per game on defense.
She now leads the Big Ten in both hitting percentage and blocks.
Not bad for someone who concentrated mostly on basketball in her younger days.
A four-time letterwinner in basketball at Hopkins High School in Minnetonka, Hagen felt she would be on the court for college athletics. She just thought that it would be dribbling a ball, not spiking one.
Hagen left Hopkins High in 1998 with over 1,000 points in her hoops career and as a Ms. Basketball candidate in Minnesota.
But she lettered three years for the volleyball team as well and was listed as one of the “Fab 50” recruits by Volleyball Magazine along with current teammate Lindsey Berg.
“I played basketball my whole life, I just thought I’d continue to play in college,” Hagen said. “But then one of my club coaches convinced me that I had a better future in volleyball. I started playing and just totally fell in love with it.”
Hagen originally planned to attend Iowa State, but those plans fell through and she turned to the Gophers.
“I went to some of the (Minnesota) games was I was little,” Hagen said, “and when I got here I was really impressed with the whole atmosphere. That was great because I always wanted to go here. It wasn’t a hard decision to make.”
It didn’t take long for Hagen to prove she was volleyball material. She broke out in her freshman year by leading the team in hitting percentage (.309). She returned to lead the team last year as well (.363).
And if she keeps up her dominant play through this season, Hebert thinks the awards will continue to pile up for Hagen.
“If our team continues to succeed at a high level, I am certain she will be looked at as a potential All-American,” he said.
“Every bit of that is deserved.”
Dig it
The Gophers will take on No. 10 Wisconsin and Northwestern this weekend at the Sports Pavilion. According to Media Relations on Tuesday, tickets for Friday night’s match-up with the Badgers are selling well. They expect a crowd of about 4,000 for the match.

Friday night’s match is also Nicole Branagh poster night. The first 1,000 fans will receive a Branagh wall poster and people with the name Nicole will be admitted for $3 with valid ID.

Brian Stensaas covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]