Dalianliz Rosado becomes fluent in English and leadership as Gophers pursue title

Coming off two consecutive Final Four appearances, the Gophers’ mainstay libero looks to bring a championship this time around.

Senior libero Dalianliz Rosado poses for a portrait in the Sports Pavilion on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Senior libero Dalianliz Rosado poses for a portrait in the Sports Pavilion on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

Henry Hughes

Dalianliz Rosado arrived at Minnesota facing an adjustment unlike many other Division I athletes — she had to learn most of the primary language.

The Gophers’ libero left her home of Puerto Rico to come play volleyball. After adapting to American culture and NCAA talent, she has become a vocal leader on a team that has gone to back-to-back Final Fours with their home opener on Friday.

“It was hard in the beginning to adjust,” Rosado said. “I still was learning the language. I didn’t know much English at the time. It was also a different culture… Different people I had to become friends with, and new teammates.”

A friend from home

Early difficulties were eased by former Gophers outside hitter Daly Santana, also from Puerto Rico, who helped Rosado feel right at home.

“She helped me a lot, because she had experience, [having already] been here two years,” Rosado said. “She helped me with techniques, and if I didn’t understand something, she would explain it to me.”

Though Rosado faced challenges off the court, her teammates have said she has a competitive drive and natural talent.

“She’s very dedicated to the team,” said Molly Lohman, a middle blocker who lived with Rosado. “She wants to help everyone out because she wants to win the next point.”

Rosado played in all 31 matches in her first year with the team.  She led the team in digs and digs per set, scoring 16 points as a freshman.

The making of a leader

Off the court, Rosado takes a different approach, claiming to be more reserved and quiet.

“I like listening to other people’s opinions” Rosado said. “But on the court … I am very competitive [and] loud.” 

This mentality held true to Rosado’s early thoughts about becoming an NCAA Division-I athlete.

The recruitment process to land Rosado was like others on the team who live near Minnesota, said head coach Hugh McCutcheon, who enters his sixth year at the helm of the program.

“We’d get on the phone like we do with all the other recruits.” McCutcheon said. “She’d come up to camps. … She had spent some time in the U.S. playing for a club team.”

Into the season

Before the start of the 2017 season, Rosado had appeared in 100 career matches. She finished second on the team in assists and third in aces in 2016, on top of performances in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament in which she recorded 33 digs.

As the 2017 season begins for the Gophers, the expectations are high for both the team and Rosado.

The team was ranked No. 4 in the nation before the season started by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. Molly Lohman, Alexis Hart and Samantha Seliger-Swenson were named to preseason All-Big Ten team.

However, Minnesota still lost some of its best players. The former NCAA player of the year, Sarah Wilhite graduated as well as Hannah Tapp and Paige Tapp. All three are currently participating for USA volleyball.

The Gophers didn’t lose depth at libero. Sophomore Lauren Litzau and junior Sophie Beckley both return from last season, and freshman Lauren Barnes comes to the team, along with Rosado.

Rosado played in every match last season, leading the team in digs with 511. She was also second on the team in assists with 121. 

That effort is what teams around the country will experience in the coming months as Rosado and the Gophers carry their program across the national spotlight. 

Already starting the season with a sweep of the University of North Carolina, the team will look to continue historic seasons of years past.

“The goals and the advice every year don’t change,” McCutcheon said. “Honor your commitment to the team by working hard, trying to become the best version of yourself, and help us to compete. If [Rosado] can do those things, she’s going to help us a ton.”

Jack White contributed to this report