Hebert retires after Minn. volleyball knocked out of tournament

Volleyball head coach Mike Hebert speaks to his team during their game against Penn State November 27 at the Sports Pavilion.

Erin Westover, Daily File Photo

Volleyball head coach Mike Hebert speaks to his team during their game against Penn State November 27 at the Sports Pavilion.

Lindsay Guentzel

 

The Gophers suffered a pair of tough losses this weekend, and only one came on the court.

On Friday Minnesota was narrowly swept by seventh-seeded California in the Sweet 16 in Seattle, and the next day they got word that head coach Mike Hebert was retiring after 15 years at the helm.

Though his career ended on a loss, he certainly went out on a high note, bringing the Gophers to the Final Four last season and into the third round this year.

But after a pair of sweeps over North Dakota State and Creighton in the first and second rounds, the Gophers met the firepower of the Pac-10 champions in a 26-24, 25-23, 25-23 loss.

âÄúIt was super close, every single set,âÄù senior Lauren Gibbemeyer said. âÄúI think it was the intangibles. They kind of had a little bit more focus at crucial times in the match.âÄù

Hebert broke the news to the team in a meeting Saturday. He said heâÄôd been contemplating retirement for the last few months and felt it was finally the right time.

âÄúThe main issues for me have been wanting to spend more time with my family,âÄù he said. âÄúAnd secondly I wanted to make sure that when I did leave that it was a time when the program and the roster were in a good place. And I think that has been accomplished.âÄù

Finishing 381-125 at Minnesota, Hebert helped lead the Gophers to 14 NCAA tournament appearances and three trips to the Final Four.

âÄúItâÄôs best for him and itâÄôs the right time,âÄù junior Jessica Granquist said. âÄúItâÄôs definitely devastating losing a legendary coach, a coach that IâÄôve come to see as a male role model in my life.âÄù

One of four juniors on the teamâÄôs roster, Granquist said that while the loss of Hebert is significant, she is optimistic about the teamâÄôs success next season.

âÄúWeâÄôll have experience under our belt,âÄù she said. âÄúI will welcome the new coach with open arms, but at the same time, I will always have a special spot for Mike and the coaching staff in my heart.âÄù

Unfortunately for the Gophers, Hebert isnâÄôt the only loss the team will need to deal with next season. Gibbemeyer, the teamâÄôs captain and only senior, finishes as one of the programâÄôs elite players and, after recovering from a wrist injury, was key in leading to the Gophers to another tournament run.

âÄúThe legacy sheâÄôll leave on is the irreplaceable aggressiveness and competitiveness on and off the court and really a business-like presence,âÄù Granquist said. âÄúShe really is a great role model.âÄù

Gibbemeyer, a middle blocker, was named to the regional All-Tournament team, an honor she also received last year when she helped lead the Gophers to the Final Four.

âÄúMy experience [at Minnesota] has been amazing and every year has been different,âÄù Gibbemeyer said. âÄúEvery team that IâÄôve been on, the chemistry has been different and I think that this last year was a learning experience for me.âÄù

Plagued by injuries this season, the Gophers finished 26-9 and tied for second in the Big Ten.

âÄúThis season has been a season to learn how to deal with adversity and to really be comfortable in uncomfortable situations,âÄù Granquist said. âÄúThe end of the season will motivate me and the rest of our players to go hard in the off-season and commit to next fall and pre-season with a really determined focus.âÄù