McCutcheon taps Benzing as assistant

Laura Benzing joins the staff after spending two years at Ohio State.

Minnesota assistant volleyball coach Laura Benzing poses in the volleyball lounge Thursday evening. Benzing was recently hired by head volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.

Minnesota assistant volleyball coach Laura Benzing poses in the volleyball lounge Thursday evening. Benzing was recently hired by head volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.

Sam Kraemer

When Laura Benzing was in high school, she was rather unfamiliar with the college volleyball recruiting process.

The Sparta, Wis., native would ask college coaches where they saw her play because she had no idea they were traveling to watch her.

But Benzing, who was added to Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon’s staff earlier this month, has made a name for herself both as a player and coach since high school.

Benzing, who has family ties in Minnesota, sought after the chance to work for the Gophers.

“Over the [NCAA volleyball] convention and Final Four, I was looking for head coaching options,” Benzing said. “But the opportunity of Minnesota, both personally and professionally for me, is just perfect. … It was kind of a no-brainer for me.”

McCutcheon said Benzing’s experience in different facets of volleyball should benefit the Gophers.

“She’s a good coach,” McCutcheon said. “Her experience as a student-athlete and playing professionally will definitely help us.”

Opting to play at Bradley University, Benzing earned First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors in 1999 and 2000, which conveyed just how quickly she was able to adapt to the college game.

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law in 2002, she decided she wasn’t ready to give up on volleyball just yet.

And with the absence of professional volleyball in the U.S., Benzing spent four years playing abroad in the German Bundesliga.

“In my four years of college, I learned a ton. And in my four years overseas, I learned a heck of a lot,” she said.

She strived to be a part of the culture, picking up the German language and even negotiating her own contracts.

Despite retiring from play in 2006, Benzing knew she still wanted to be involved in the game.

“When I ran out of juice physically, I still had the drive for learning the game,” she said. “And it’s fun. I’m a volley nerd.”

Through connections she developed both at Bradley and overseas, she was recommended for an assistant position at Oregon State University.

Benzing served as Oregon State’s recruiting coordinator from 2007 to 2012, where she contributed in the development of one of the nation’s top recruiting classes in 2009.

She used her experience both at Bradley and abroad to relate to potential recruits and her players in practice, she said.

“I was very uneducated in the recruiting process, and everyone was where I grew up,” she said. “I use that experience to help families understand the process and how things work so that their goals can fit into that both educationally and athletically.”

Benzing left Oregon State to take the same position at Ohio State University prior to the 2013 season, which she has held for the last two years.

Ohio State earned a trip to the Sweet 16 this season before falling to Wisconsin, and Buckeyes head coach Geoff Carlston said the team will miss her.

“Laura was a fun person to be around, and I’m happy for her,” Carlston said. “As a group, we grew a lot over her two years, and she was an adamant part in that growth.”