When called upon, Bowman chips in for U

Jeff Barthel

Kelly Bowman knew at a young age that she wanted to play volleyball for the Gophers.

“I used to be a ball girl here,” Bowman said. “I remember watching Katrien (DeDecker) getting her 2,000 kills and watching Becky (Bauer) set.”

DeDecker recorded 2,300 kills in her four-year career at Minnesota, which ended in 2000. Bauer had 5,918 assists in her career with the Gophers. Both players rank second in Gophers volleyball history for these respective statistical categories.

Bowman, only a freshman, played for her high school volleyball team in Osseo, Minn. Growing up in the metro area allowed her to come to the University to watch these players in the late 1990s and early 2000s – which was about the same time coach Mike Hebert first saw her play.

“She’s got an instinct,” Hebert said. “I saw that in her when she was really young.”

Hebert recruited her early. Bowman committed to play at Minnesota during her sophomore year at Osseo High School.

Jen Bowman, Kelly’s older sister, is also on Minnesota’s volleyball team but is unable to play this year because of NCAA transfer regulations.

The Bowman sisters started playing volleyball by putting up a net in their backyard.

“I played volleyball first, and she’d want to play,” Jen said. “We’d like to pass and set with each other, back and forth.”

Kelly wishes Jen was able to play with her this season.

“She’s a tremendous leader on the court,” Kelly said. “It’s always nice to play with her; we push one another to play well.”

The Bowman sisters both say they have had a lot of practice on setting with each other. Now, the younger Bowman can also go to her roommate for support.

“She’s my best friend,” said sophomore Jessica Byrnes, Kelly’s roommate and teammate. “That’s why we are roommates.”

Byrnes also commented on the Gophers having two top-notch setters in Kelly and in junior setter Lindsey Taatjes. Taatjes set the single-season record in sets last season by dishing out an impressive 1,734 assists.

“Neither one deserves to be on the bench,” Byrnes said.

Kelly, however, offers Minnesota a new look at the setter position.

“They provide different styles of play,” Hebert said. “Similar to changing quarterbacks is the change of a setter. We like having two great setters on our team.”

Kelly made her first start as setter last Saturday at Purdue. She was able to collect 64 assists in her Big Ten debut as a starting setter. She played off the bench in Friday’s match against Indiana. Bowman had four assists against the Hoosiers that night.

“Sometimes a change of style gets a team out of a rut,” Hebert said.

The Gophers lost both matches, in four games to Purdue and three straight to the Hoosiers.

After leading the team in sets against the Boilermakers, Bowman will look to add more this weekend, whether she starts or not.

Even Hebert doesn’t know who will start yet.

“We’ll have to see how they do in practice,” Hebert said.