Hauer hits stride in sophomore season with Gophers

Outside hitter Karlie Hauer has played more in her second year.

Gophers outside hitter Karlie Hauer passes the ball during a match Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Gophers outside hitter Karlie Hauer passes the ball during a match Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Megan Ryan

While most of Karlie Hauer’s teammates are just arriving at practice, the sophomore outside hitter is already on the court, practicing her spike and her serve to the nearly empty gym.

That extra work has paid off. Hauer has seen her playing time increase and her role on the team expand over the last year.

“We all want to play,” she said. “We all want to have our opportunities. It’s nice to know that putting in hard work on the court in practice has been able to give me the opportunity to go and show what I’ve been working on in games.”

Hauer has started five matches this season, playing in 11 overall. She’s amassed 47 kills, averaging 1.74 per set with a .258 hitting percentage. She played in 23 matches and started none last season, tallying only 11 kills.

Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon said the explanation behind Hauer’s progress from freshman to sophomore year is simple — she’s gotten better.

“She’s certainly much more invested in the process of becoming the best that she can be,” McCutcheon said, “and that’s great to have someone as committed as she is to those ideals.”

Hauer said the whole team worked during the spring season to rebuild fundamentals and relearn basic skills the correct way. So while every aspect of her game has improved, she said, certain categories stand out.

“My serving has gotten a lot better as well as, probably, my blocking,” Hauer said. “I’m working on trying to get a more powerful arm swing and just have faster arm swings.”

She said she starts her practices early to keep improving the small details.

“I try to come in and just try to warm up my arm a little bit, work on my serve, just try and hit different spots,” she said.

Sophomore outside hitter Daly Santana said she’s noticed Hauer’s extra effort paying off.

“She’s playing with a lot more confidence,” Santana said, “and her communication has also improved.”

The strides are coming at just the right time for Hauer.

She and Santana look to be the next generation of big hitters for the Gophers once seniors Ashley Wittman and Tori Dixon graduate this spring.

“They have to be [ready], because pretty soon they’re going to be [leaders],” McCutcheon said. “They have to get, I think, accustomed to the idea that they have a load to carry, and they have to get used to carrying it.”

While Hauer has enjoyed seeing more court time, she said she knows she’s not a perfect player and must improve her passing and game-day nerves.

Having so many new players this year has helped motivate Hauer to fight for a starting spot, but it has also brought her the comfort of knowing the team is in good hands.

“Whether or not I’m on the court always or whether it’s someone else,” Hauer said, “I would say that we’re not going to have a problem trying to fill the shoes of Ashley and Tori.”