Brafford leaves a paper trail of accomplishments

Brian Hall

Within the journal of sophomore volleyball player Bethany Brafford the newest entry might read something like this: had career-high .818 hitting percentage as Minnesota recorded a convincing sweep of Northwestern on Saturday.

The 6-foot-2-inch Ohio native maintains a journal to mark her journey as a Minnesota middle blocker and University student.

While all members of the team are required to submit weekly journals to the coaching staff, it’s Brafford’s personal notes in which she composes lifetime memories.

“It’s to keep track of everything I have done,” Brafford said. “It helps to get frustrations out if I am having a bad day, or just to tell my feelings about the day. It is something I like to keep, and will look back on someday to see all the things I have come through.”

Meanwhile, the writer-turned-spiker has become a key component to the No. 21 Gophers attack.

Brafford has played in 62 games this year after playing in only 33 last season. She leads the team with a .394 hitting percentage to go with 129 kills. Her .394 mark ranks sixth in the Big Ten.

Brafford also leads the team with 1.02 blocks per game.

“She has had a real breakthrough year,” coach Mike Hebert said. “She is a very consistent performer and she just continues to get better with every practice.”

Added team co-captain Lindsey Berg: “She has been very steady and she makes very low errors as a hitter. Sometimes she stabilizes our passing game, where you don’t normally see middle blockers being able to do that.”

One of the keys to Brafford’s game is her ability to stay error-free in the fast-paced rally scoring system.

She has committed only 30 miscues in 251 swings.

“I have the mentality that I cannot make errors,” Brafford said. “I think that all the time, because with the change to rally scoring there is no room for errors and you have to be able to take care of the ball.”

Brafford crafted her skills at Madison High School in Mansfield, Ohio, where she was named the state’s player of the year and a Powerade top 75 college recruit as a senior.

During her career, the Rams volleyball team went 99-11 and won a state title in Brafford’s sophomore year. Brafford lettered in both volleyball and basketball for three years.

“I had really liked basketball,” Brafford said. “I started out in basketball and then someone introduced me to playing club volleyball. I got into that, then started to like volleyball. I just played it all the time.

“After a while it became my first love.”

Brafford made official visits to Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, and unofficial trips to Ohio State and Penn State.

Minnesota stumbled upon her by accident.

“We actually went to watch another player when she was playing for Team Extreme out of Ohio and she caught my eye,” Hebert said. “She was a powerful hitter with good size and good athletic ability.

“We just started recruiting her from then on and we were up against a number of different schools and somehow things just clicked between Minnesota and Bethany Brafford.”

Now, Brafford is working toward an accomplishment sure to get its own page in her journal – a Big Ten championship.

“A championship is the one goal I have for my collegiate career,” Brafford said. “Hopefully we can accomplish that while I am here.”

 

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