Idols no more; Loberg is living her childhood dream

In her sophomore season, Katie Loberg is averaging 9 points and 4.2 rebounds per game as Minnesota’s starting center.

Jesse Mandell-McClinton

When Katie Loberg was growing up in Princeton, Minn., the only college sport she followed was Gophers womenâÄôs basketball.

Now just a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, sheâÄôs the teamâÄôs starting center.

âÄúItâÄôs been my dream team to play for them ever since I was little.âÄù Loberg said of the Gophers. âÄúIâÄôm really loving it here.âÄù

After a prolific prep career with Princeton High School, the 6-foot-4 Loberg chose to stay close to home and play for the program she looked up to when she was young.

An especially active child, Loberg discovered her love for athletics early in life.

âÄúMy mom enrolled me in almost every community education program she could,âÄù she said. Though she plays basketball in college, Loberg excelled in other sports as well in high school; she was selected to the all-state track and field team fives times, four of them for the high jump.

She credits her grandfather for helping her ultimately chose basketball. When Loberg was little, the two watched the womenâÄôs team play and talked about basketball frequently. Loberg said her grandfather, a former basketball player, eventually led her âÄúin the right direction towards basketball.âÄù

Playing with the Gophers is the fulfillment of a big dream for Loberg, but success at the college level has been more difficult to come by. During her time at Minnesota, the Gophers have gone just 24-33, including a 9-23 conference record. Loberg was not a part of all the recent struggles, starting only one game as a freshman, but in basketball, a team can only win and lose as a group.

Luckily for the Gophers, the losses havenâÄôt demoralized Loberg, who has even been able to spin the tough stretch for the program in a positive light.

âÄúYou canâÄôt really look at it as being something negative,âÄù Loberg said Monday, a day after the teamâÄôs fourth consecutive loss. âÄúTheyâÄôre all experiences that make us stronger as a team.âÄù

Jackie Voigt, a junior forward on the basketball team and LobergâÄôs roommate, has seen her progression as a player since she arrived last season. âÄúSheâÄôs really stepped up,âÄù Voigt said about LobergâÄôs increased playing time this year; Loberg has started 20 games for Minnesota.

The Gophers entered this season without veteran centers Zoe Harper and two-time All-Big Ten honoree Ashley Ellis-Milan, who graduated from the program last year and left a large hole in MinnesotaâÄôs frontcourt.

Only one year removed from high school, Loberg has embraced her role as the starting center and is averaging 9 points and 4.2 rebounds a game.

âÄúThis season has definitely been a huge growth period for me,âÄù Loberg said.

The challenges sheâÄôs faced so far with the team, however, have been greater than she ever expected.

One of the unexpected obstacles is the âÄúhandfulâÄù of injuries sheâÄôs had this season. In addition to being diagnosed with Achilles Tendonitis, Loberg had to get an MRI on her left knee after she injured it in a collision Nov. 14 against Wisconsin-Green Bay. The injury caused her to miss three games.

âÄúItâÄôs been something IâÄôve never really had to deal with before,âÄù Loberg said of the severity of her injuries, but she said she realizes itâÄôs a part of the game. Like the teamsâÄô struggles this season, sheâÄôs not letting it affect her attitude toward the game.

âÄú[The injuries] just made me a stronger person mentally and physically. ItâÄôs something that youâÄôve got to battle through.âÄù

When she gets some free time away from her busy basketball schedule, Loberg enjoys spending much of her time, well, spending.

âÄúMy roommate Jackie Voigt and me will âĦ go shopping. Some of the teammates will go shopping. I love shopping,âÄù she said.

âÄúWe both love to shop,âÄù Voigt agreed.

As a freshman, Loberg played behind Voigt, who is one year her senior. Now they are both starting for the Gophers and combined grab more than 25 percent of the teamâÄôs rebounds each game. Both are from Minnesota, with Voigt growing up an hour and a half south of Loberg in Cottage Grove.

âÄúSheâÄôs definitely someone I look up to,âÄù Loberg said of Voigt. âÄúIâÄôm lucky to have her as a roommate.âÄù

While this has been a disappointing season all around for the Gophers, LobergâÄôs development as a player is hard to ignore, as sheâÄôs hit double figures eight times this year and is shooting close to 50 percent in her first year as a starter.

âÄúI love the coaches, I love the team,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs the sport that I grew up loving.âÄù