It has been an eventful first season for freshman Alyssa Goehner.
She came to Minnesota as an outside hitter, but she has quickly transitioned to playing strictly in the back row.
“Initially, we had her at libero because her passing was so good,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said, but she has also played in the back as a defensive specialist.
The back row was where the young player remained for most of the season, and she occasionally saw action in the front row.
But Wednesday’s match will mark the fourth time Goehner will play outside — the position that she has played her whole life.
“I’m getting more comfortable as each match comes,” Goehner said. “The transition’s tough, even though I’ve been [playing outside hitter] all my life.”
McCutcheon said moving Goehner to the outside has made the team’s play a little smoother.
“Offensively, she does really well,” McCutcheon said. “She adds some nice ball control, some nice stability to our lineup.”
The change also allows Goehner to provide her defensive effort for six rotations, rather than three when she was playing only back row.
“It’s kind of like having two liberos out there,” Goehner said. “I can pass with [teammate] Dalianliz [Rosado].”
Sophomore setter Erica Handley, Goehner’s high school teammate, said she enjoys seeing her back at her “natural position.”
“I’ve been so used to seeing her as an outside,” Handley said. “It’s kinda weird to see her as a libero.”
Handley said although Goehner has always been great at defense, she’s especially determined when playing on the outside.
“She really likes the challenge of going up against those big blockers [and] seeing the different shots she can use to hit over them,” Handley said.
Having played high school volleyball together has helped with the setter-hitter communication, Handley said, although she said Goehner isn’t afraid to tell her what kind of set she wants.
“If she wants a set faster, she’ll tell me. If she wants it higher, she’ll tell me,” Handley said. “We just have a really good communication system.”
With just four matches left in the regular season, McCutcheon said he has no doubts that Goehner can carry the load the team needs her to carry on the outside.
“I’m finally learning how to hit at such an elite level,” Goehner said.