Schau excels in fill-in role, earns more time

David Nelson

The idea of graduating three key players can be a nightmare for volleyball coaches across the NCAA, but not for the Gophers volleyball coaching staff.

As freshmen have stepped up this season, the future appears bright for Minnesota — especially with the emergence of freshman setter Katie Schau.

“Just because it’s your first year doesn’t mean you have to [play like] a freshman,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “You can come in and compete with composure.”

That’s what Schau has done this season.

This weekend will serve as a homecoming for the former Michigander, who grew up just an hour and a half outside of Ann Arbor, Mich., and East Lansing, Mich., where the Gophers’ matches will take place.

“I’m excited [because] a lot of people from home get to come and watch me play,” Schau said. “I watched the [Michigan and Michigan State] games growing up … so it will be fun playing in those gyms.”

Schau didn’t always have a consistent role on this team, but after performing well in limited action, she quickly became the primary backup setter.

“She’s doing a nice job setting the ball,” McCutcheon said. “The hitters are hitting for a good efficiency, and she’s functional at the net.”

Schau has had opportunities to showcase her talent during the past couple of weekends, making an appearance in every set in the last three matches.

Senior setter Alexandra Palmer attributes the extra playing time to the attitude Schau maintains during games.

“It’s a big load that she has to share with me of running the offense,” Palmer said. “I think she’s done a great job.”

Palmer said the freshman class as a whole has been a group that she’ll remember once her career at Minnesota is over.

“[They’ve] embraced what we’re trying to do here at the program,” Palmer said. “So that’s been awesome … going out knowing that I’m leaving a legacy behind with where we want to go and how we want to build this program.”

Though the Gophers can be confident in what lies ahead for the program, there are still four regular-season matches left.

“Everyone is going to be fighting for their lives,” Palmer said. “Whether they want to make the tournament, end the season on a good note [or] host a regional.”

Three of the Gophers’ final four matches are on the road, but amid the adversity of being away, Schau said the best is yet to come for this team.

“We have a lot of season left,” Schau said. “I’m excited to see what we’re going to do.”