Volleyball seniors step up

Jeff Barthel

All successful teams need leadership. On Minnesota’s volleyball team, two particular upperclassmen have led the way.

Cassie Busse and Erin Lorenzen were both juniors on the Gophers’ Big Ten championship team last season.

This year, others look up to them as senior leaders.

“Cassie, I think, really didn’t understand what that meant in the first two or three weeks of the season,” coach Mike Hebert said. “She’s not a vocal leader, but through the things she does she’s been a leader on the court.”

Hebert has talked a lot about grooming Busse into the player she is now.

However, he also has a lot of appreciation for Lorenzen. Hebert noted the calm demeanor in which Lorenzen leads her team.

“Erin is a very mature player,” Hebert said. “She keeps the team settled.”

Lorenzen sees little playing time as a backup to Busse. The Gophers only start one player at the opposite hitter position each match.

Despite this, the 6-foot-2-inch Pipestone, Minn., native is a team captain. She shares these duties with Busse and junior setter Lindsey Taatjes.

Lorenzen and her teammates have come a long way. She recalled her earlier days on the team.

“We all came in pretty raw,” Lorenzen said.

She was referring to herself, Busse and junior Trisha Bratford – a 5-foot-11-inch outside hitter redshirted for her freshman season.

Bratford is third on the team in kills with 428. She does her share, but her senior teammate has led this team.

Busse tops the Gophers in hitting percentage (.314), kills (221) and service aces (14). She’s also fourth in digs (105).

The 6-foot-2-inch captain was also named national player of the week two weeks ago.

The senior standout knocked down a career-high 27 kills against Michigan – only to top that mark with a 30-kill performance against Michigan State the next day.

Busse knows Lorenzen fairly well. She and Lorenzen have lived together and will often be near each other at practice.

“We go through the same drills and so know what each other are facing each day in practice,” Busse said.

Busse and Lorenzen are the team’s only opposite hitters.

Busse has, without doubt, shown her ability as opposite hitter. Lorenzen, on the other hand is multifaceted.

“I’ve been switched around a lot; I’m kind of a utility player,” Lorenzen said.

Her skills might come useful as her Big Ten-leading team heads down its final stretch.

Skills and experience are important. Another senior, Jen Bowman, has learned a lot from her experiences.

Though the 5-foot-10-inch senior must sit out this year because of transfer regulations, she contributes in a different way.

Bowman has played at two other universities – Northern Illinois and Long Beach State – and knows a lot of volleyball strategies other teams might use.

“I can bring my experience from knowing different game styles,” Bowman said

Other Big Ten teams will have to wait until next year to see her court skills. In the meantime, Bowman remains positive.

“During the matches, I’m the vocal leader,” Bowman said. “I like to keep the team excited, cheering and upbeat.”

Busse and Lorenzen, however, are looked upon for leadership as their team continues its quest to repeat as Big Ten champions.