Rubright finding time in Gophers volleyball lineup

After not seeing the court in Minnesota’s first four matches, middle blocker Shea Rubright has continued to contribute to the Gophers’ success.

Shea+Rubright

Courtesy of Gopher Athletics

Brendan O'Brien, Sports Reporter

On a Friday night in early February, the Minnesota volleyball team was in the thick of its toughest match of the season to date against Purdue.

Midway through the match, sophomore Shea Rubright had her name called to go in and help the Gophers weather the storm. Her mindset for playing the first time in the season? Just play the best she could to help Minnesota come out victorious.

The middle blocker made key momentum plays with a few kills and blocks to help the Gophers take down the Boilermakers in five sets. After her performance that Friday night, Rubright was put into the starting lineup the following night. Head coach Hugh McCutcheon said after another victory, he thought the Gophers should start with the same group that won the first match against Purdue, meaning Rubright earned her first start of the season.

The Gophers continue to rotate through different players in the middle, like Rubright, Regan Pittman and Katie Myers. But ever since that weekend in West Lafayette, Indiana, Rubright has not missed a start.

“There’s a lot of good middles in that group, and from match to match it’s been chopped and changed a little bit. [Rubright’s] consistently hitting for a good number, and her blocking has continued to improve. I’m really happy for her and proud of what she’s doing out there,” McCutcheon said.

Rubright said she has benefitted from practice time this season. From facing players at other positions to competing for playing time within her own position group, practices are just as challenging as some matches. She values how the other middle blockers have led to her improvement.

“It’s a really good group to work with; we’re all really good. It’s fun, really fun, to play against [them],” Rubright said. “We’re all really close in the middle, and it’s really good to compete against them every day — that really helps us prepare for the court. Anyone can be out there on any given day of the week.”

Like many other areas of Minnesota’s roster, the middle blocker position is loaded with talent. Pittman was named AVCA First Team All-American in 2019 and Second Team All-American in 2018. Myers transferred to Minnesota after four years at Maryland, where she played in every set in her final season with the Terrapins.

As a team, the Gophers are fourth in the Big Ten in blocks per set. Rubright is fifth on the team in blocks but plans on working hard to continue contributing to the Gophers’ success. As the season goes on, she works to improve her production and be more aggressive offensively and defensively.

Health and safety concerns within the Michigan program postponed Minnesota’s matches against Michigan slated for Feb. 26-27, but the Gophers will return to the court March 5 against Ohio State, and Rubright’s playing time does not appear to be going anywhere.