Cipperly grows into supporting role for Gophers

Brian Hall

Amanda Cipperly was not recruited to Minnesota’s volleyball team to be the next Nicole Branagh or Stephanie Hagen.

She does not have the sheer power and leaping ability of the two-time All-American Branagh or the height and long limbs of the All-American Hagen. Instead, Cipperly was brought in to reprise a role played by Gophers Sarah Pearman and Jane Passer in the late 90’s.

Cipperly was recruited to be Minnesota’s equivalent to basketball’s sixth man, a position coach Mike Hebert feels is necessary to any successful team.

“She is a safety valve for us,” Hebert said. “We know that we will always have her available because she has more volleyball intelligence than the other players. She can become a consistent performer and you have to have that if you want to have a solid team. I have always had a player like that and she’s the one we have chosen for this round of recruiting.”

Meanwhile, Cipperly is splitting time at outside hitter with Erin Martin making the pair the first freshman starters for the Gophers since setter Lindsey Berg in 1998

“I felt like I worked very hard during the year to get my spot now,” Cipperly said. “It is so cool how I have made it into the starting lineup now and it is just a struggle to keep my game up.”

Cipperly didn’t earn her first start until Oct. 20 against Northwestern but has drawn the starting nod in eight straight matches. She has played in 48 of Minnesota’s 93 games.

Hebert envisions Cipperly as a spark plug-type player who can occasionally start or come off the bench when the team needs a boost.

“Amanda Cipperly was someone I wanted to recruit because she had some game,” Hebert said. “We knew as a freshman we could put her in and she could function as a
volleyball player in the match.”

The Anoka, Minn., native began following the Minnesota program as an eighth grader and never dreamed she would one day wear the maroon and gold.

“For the longest time I didn’t think they were interested in me,” Cipperly said. “I thought they were interested in the bigger girls.”

The 5-foot-10 Cipperly
possesses the all-around game athletes both big and small dream about. Cipperly boasts a strong service game, has good passing skills, and plays solid defense.

“Even though her size is not comparable to some other outside hitters in the Big Ten, her shot selection, determination and passion for the game will take her very far,” Berg said.

Cipperly ranks sixth on the team in kills with 91, fourth in digs averaging 1.42 per game, but is hitting only .190 on the year. Career bests include 12 kills against Iowa and 13 digs at Indiana.

Cipperly displayed her finest all around game against Wisconsin-Green Bay on Nov. 5. She earned the first double double of her career with 10 kills and 10 digs while also posting career bests with a .280 hitting percentage and two blocks.

Cipperly has struggled at times this year but Hebert said inconsistency is common among first-year players. Her struggles are one reason the outside hitter has been a weak spot in the Gophers attack.

Hebert is using her as part of a three-player rotation with Martin and redshirt freshman Trisha Bratford.

“I am really frustrated with myself,” Cipperly said. “I want to be the person out there. I don’t want the outsides to be so up and down and I want to be there for the team and not have the outside be an issue anymore. It just frustrates me when I am not playing my game or when I play head games with myself.”

Whether starting or coming off the bench, Cipperly wants to do anything she can to help Minnesota continue its winning ways.

“She has a winning attitude,” Martin said. “She has killer instincts and wants to win all the time, just the type of player I would want on the court.”

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