Hartmann shines in new single-setter role

The sophomore setter is third on the team in blocks per game in Big Ten play this season.

Mark Heise

For sophomore setter Rachel Hartmann, change has been a good thing.

After playing part time from the back row as a freshman, Hartmann was promoted to the primary setter role and has excelled in more ways than one.

Last season, the Gophers were playing with two setters, as current outside hitter Kelly Bowman and Hartmann shared setting responsibilities, easing Hartmann into college play.

Hartmann said she enjoyed that experience, mentioning how last year allowed her to become comfortable with the atmosphere and style of play. However, she said changing to just one setter has made things easier on the team.

“With two setters on the court, the team had to look for two different people, and it got confusing sometimes,” she said. “It was tough sometimes, but Kelly did a great job of working that out last year and helping me along as well.”

Bowman agreed that having a single setter has worked better, and she expressed confidence in Hartmann’s abilities to fulfill the role.

Bowman got to know Hartmann through their time together as dual-setters and took on a mentor-type role with the younger player.

“We spent a lot of time together last season, and we’ve experienced a lot at the same time,” Bowman said. “I’ve really enjoyed the chance to try and pass along what I’ve learned and help her along the way. She’s matured so fast. I think she’ll be really successful.”

Hartmann has not only been successful this year in the assists and digs categories but has added a new dimension to her game – one above the net.

Aside from 773 assists on the season, Hartmann has established her presence at the net with an average of .58 kills per game, including a career-high four-kill performance at Ohio State last weekend.

The sophomore also has contributed with .79 blocks per game in Big Ten play. In comparison, Hartmann collected just four kills and three blocks through the entire 2005 season, none during conference play.

Currently, only two Gophers average more blocks per game in Big Ten competition this season, a tribute to the work Hartmann has put into her offensive game this year.

“I wanted to be able to help out a little more offensively and be able to keep the other team honest,” she said. “Last season, we never really worked on it because I was never in the front row, but this year, I’ve gotten to work on that more.”

Despite taking on a starting role and adding two more threats to her game, Hartmann somehow still finds time to relax, spending a lot of time off the court with her teammates.

Senior Meredith Nelson said she has appreciated the addition of Hartmann’s personality to the group, commenting on her dry, subtle sense of humor.

“Rachel’s a little quiet, but once you get to know her, you have to love her,” she said. “She has a way of joking around that just keeps everyone loose, a really good presence.”

Bowman related the team members’ relationship with one another to the 2004 Minnesota squad, the National Championship runner-up.

“This year’s team has great chemistry and has a lot of similarities to the 2004 team,” she said. “We get along very well, and I think we’re beginning to see a difference it’s making on the court.”