Volleyball recruit leaves home looking for success

by Brian Hall

Most coaches understand winning improves recruiting.

Minnesota volleyball coach Mike Hebert was reaffirmed of this notion when former University of Texas player Kathy Tilson made the decision to transfer and play for the Gophers.

“I wanted to make my senior year the most successful it could possibly be,” Tilson said. “I didn’t know where I wanted to transfer. So, I got on the Internet, looked up the top programs in the nation and started making phone calls.”

Upset with the downslide Texas has taken recently, Tilson wanted to transfer to a program which would be successful and competitive.

After speaking with Hebert over the phone, she decided to visit the University.

“I liked the coaching staff and the other girls right away,” Tilson said. “Their personalities and the other people surrounding the team showed me this would be a great place to come.”

Tilson was so sure of it, Minnesota was the only place she visited.

A native of Austin, Tx., Tilson made the difficult decision to transfer from the school she was born to love, the only school she ever dreamed of playing for and the school her parents attended.

“There have been a lot of mixed emotions,” Tilson said. “But I knew it was the right decision for me. I see it as an adventure, and an opportunity.”

Tilson was a three-year letterwinner at Texas and was named to the All-Big 12 first team after her sophomore season. She was also a two-time member of the academic All-Big 12 team. She finished last season with 364 kills and 265 digs.

“She is a very dynamic athlete,” Hebert said. “She knows her way around the court and she brings a lot of talent. We should be able to use her in many ways.”

In transferring, Tilson has certainly improved the quality of the team around her.

Last year the Longhorns went 6-10 in the Big 12 and 8-15 overall, losing all six matches they played against top 25 teams.

Meanwhile the Gophers set a school record with 17 Big Ten wins and finished 30-4 overall while reaching the Sweet 16 at the NCAA tournament.

Tilson will be taking the scholarship left behind by Yvonne VanOort, who decided not to return for her senior year and instead dedicate the time to her family.

Tilson brings experience to the Gophers as an outside hitter, a position weakened by the loss of VanOort and the graduation of Lisa Aschenbrenner and All-American Nicole Branagh – the Big Ten’s all-time kills leader.

“Adjusting shouldn’t be a big deal,” Lindsey Berg, Minnesota setter and team captain, said. “Whoever I play with, I look to get the best out of them. I have a lot of confidence in her, and she seems to have a lot in herself.”

Tilson’s self confidence is evident in the decision to leave home and follow a dream.

“Personally, I think it has been a very courageous thing for her to do,” Hebert said. “It wasn’t the most popular thing for her to do in many circles. Yet, she has done it with a great deal of class.”

“I guess it shows how bad I want to win,” Tilson said. “I want to win so bad that I would put myself through all of this.”


Brian Hall welcomes comments at [email protected]