V-ball team set for Big Ten

Kristian Pope

The Heidi’s are gone, but the Gophers move on.
Heidi Olhausen and Heidi Foesch, a tandem that combined for 4.64 kills per game, are gone after their eligibility ran out last season. But every other Minnesota volleyball player from the 1995 team, which played to a 13-17 record, returns this year.
Clouding the season will be Coach Mike Hebert’s concerns over depth and injuries. Minnesota’s reserves are limited as the team has just three incoming freshman. And four Gophers — including top returner Katrien DeDecker — will begin Big Ten play having seen more than they’d like of Minnesota’s training room.
Here’s a brief peak at the volleyball starters this season:

Player: Katrien DeDecker, left outside hitter.
The DeDecker File: This year marks the farewell season for the Belgium native. She is only 307 kills shy of the Minnesota all-time record. With a season of her capabilities, DeDecker could become Minnesota’s first NCAA first-team All-American in volleyball.
Attributes: At 6-foot-2, the senior is the Gophers’ tallest player. Used primarily as a left outside hitter, DeDecker will be looked upon to pass as well.
Hebert’s Hyperbole: “Katrien’s always been a dominant hitter in the Big Ten. But she has never been a passer, so we’ve added that to her game. I believe Katrien’s an All-America player. Whether she achieves that depends on our team’s success. And that means going to NCAA’s.”
Did You Know?: DeDecker has twice been named Big Ten Player of the Week this season.

Player: Sarah Pearman, left outside hitter.
The Pearman File: A junior outside hitter from Apple Valley, the 5-foot-9 Pearman was named Metro Player of the Year in 1992 by a Minneapolis newspaper. Since then Pearman has struggled, having suffered a major knee injury in ’94.
Attributes: Pearman is looked to for her strength on the court. To watch her play, fans will notice her fiery desire to dive for balls. She and DeDecker are the team’s co-captains.
Hebert’s Hyperbole: “Since High School, Sarah’s been a real comeback story. This year we’ll look to her to take on a big hit and attack load. She’s only 5-9 so she’ll be in there with some big people.”
Did you know?: Pearman has an Aunt who used to be a star performer on the Broadway stage.

Player: Jane Passer, middle blocker.
The Passer File: Unlike her name, Passer, a 5-foot-10 junior, will be looked to stuff the middle of the court at the blocker position.
Hebert’s Hyperbole: “Jane’s maybe our best athlete. We moved her from outside hitter to the middle position because she’s very good defensively.”
Did You Know?: Passer is known to have the highest vertical leap of any Minnesota volleyball player.

Player: Tera Fiamengo, right outside hitter.
The Fiamengo File: A Gophers senior from Long Beach, Calif., Fiamengo is mainly an outside hitter. Last year she had 115 kills, a career high.
Attributes: Fiamengo is a versatile player, having spent time at every court position in her four years in Minneapolis. She will slide from hitter to middle blocker this year for the Gophers.
Hebert’s Hyperbole: “Tera is a very experienced player. She’s a consistent blocker and in my opinion, she’s a key to our team this year. But she’s also one of the question marks. In the past, Tera has been inconsistent in her play. How she solves that will also determine how successful we are.”

Player: Becky Bauer, setter.
The Bauer File: Wearing No. 13, Bauer is one of three juniors playing for the Gophers. A graduate of Bloomington Jefferson, the 5-foot-11 setter began the season third all-time in assists at Minnesota with 2,798. Through 13 matches this season, Bauer has tallied 541 assists.
Attributes: Has a soft touch at the net, but is underestimated for her hitting strength.
Hebert’s Hyperbole: “Becky’s an extremely gifted athlete. She has the potential to be one of the top three setters in the conference. Her discipline within our system will determine her success.”

Player: Tara Baynes, middle blocker.
The Baynes File: A tough, gritty persona hasn’t kept this sophomore from Belle Plain, Minn., down. Baynes returned to the lineup sooner than anticipated after a concussion — and its after-effects — sustained last season. She came back to play during the preseason and promptly injured her lower back. A bad sign for the Gophers is that she has missed nearly two weeks of practice heading into conference play, which begins Friday. No truth to the rumor she is known as Bad Luck Baynes.
Attributes: Is strong on the serve. Alongside Passer she is formidable in the front court.
Hebert’s Hyperbole: “It’s just been a nightmare for Tara so far. She’s the only player with real experience at middle blocker. With her back trouble, I don’t know when she’ll be returning to the lineup. She’s a good passer but she needs some technical work.”
Did You Know?: Baynes has been a lifeguard in her hometown of Belle Plain for five straight summers.

Reserves: Hebert said the first player off the bench will be sophomore hitter, Jill McDonell. McDonell has also filled in for Baynes at the blocker position. Freshmen Bethany Baker and Hillary Hebert will serve as defensive specialists for Minnesota. Senior Michelle Miller and freshman Susan Shudlick will see time as backup setters. Because the Gophers are fairly limited in their reserve players, all four can hope to play this season.