Midwestern fervor

For coach Mike Hebert and the Minnesota volleyball staff, recruiting has always been a big part to the program’s success.

But having to compete with a dominating Pac 10 conference whose colleges boast warm weather isn’t quite as easy as it might seem.

This seems to make sense as to why the majority of the Gophers squad comes from either Minnesota or Illinois, but Hebert said that the influx of Illinois players is just a coincidence.

“Obviously it’s easier for us to get an upper-Midwest kid than a kid from Honolulu,” he said. “But in general, we don’t isolate a region; we go after the top kids wherever they are.”

As a known power in college volleyball, the Gophers would have an easier time recruiting than other colleges. But with such a large population of players playing on so many levels throughout the nation, where would a strong recruiting school like Minnesota start?

“It’s really a matter of our recruiting at the national club tournaments,” Hebert explained. “We generally spot kids when they’re 14 or 15, but you can’t talk to them yet. But we can build information on them. We’ll track kids for two or three years and the list narrows as they get older.”

Of course, once the team is allowed to contact players, Minnesota begins its recruiting process, but by then, sometimes it’s just up to how the players feel about a certain program or coach.

Being an elite program could turn an athlete towards Minnesota, but sometimes, the prospective athlete is looking for a specific type of coach. Hebert said there were really two types of coaches, one was more of a workhorse, hard-nosed type, while the other was more of the father-figure type. And it was the latter of the two that Hebert grouped himself into.

“I think I’m kind of a low-key, compassionate kind of a coach,” he said. “So when I hire people, I’m looking for people who are more of the hard-nosed type to compliment that.”

Last year’s recruiting class was ranked as the fourth best in the nation, behind three Minnesota natives in Brook Dieter, Lauren Gibbemeyer and Hailey Cowles, along with two out-of-state athletes in Charde Phillips and Caitlin Schneider.

While the Gophers might have received some help with having such a pool of talent within the state, Minnesota’s knack for always bringing in the top recruits could lead to a conclusion that Hebert and his staff are just good at their jobs.

“Yes, it helped us that those three were from the area and wanted to stay at home, but I think we did a good job of paying attention to them through the process and teaching them about the program,” Hebert said. “Our staff does a good job of staying in touch with the kids, and that’s something we all play a part in.”