There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2015-16 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players
This week: Gopher volleyball players Toni Alugbue, Taylor Morgan, Kayla Buford, Daly Santana and Dalianliz Rosado
Three of the six newcomers on the 2015 U of M volleyball team are Blacks: Toni Alugbue, Taylor Morgan and Kayla Buford join holdovers Daly Santana and Dalianliz Rosado as the most players of color in Gopher Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon’s four-year tenure.
“They’re great people. Regardless of what they bring athletically, their character is a great hit,” noted McCutcheon on froshes Morgan and Buford. Alugbue, a fifth-year senior transfer from Notre Dame, “will lead with character and integrity and will be a great resource for the younger kids. It’s great to have someone of Toni’s experience,” added the coach.
The MSR in separate interviews talked with the five aforementioned players:
Related content: Spotlight on Gopher volleyball
While in high school, Alugbue said, she envisioned herself in a Golden Gopher uniform. After four years at Notre Dame, where she earned a management consulting degree, the native Californian finally arrived in Minnesota, where she is attending graduate school for applied kinesiology.
“I have to pinch myself to see if it’s real,” said Alugbue, who is completing her fifth year of eligibility with the Gophers this se
ason. “I visited Minnesota [earlier this year], and everything worked out academically. I know I wanted to pursue a degree in the sport science program, and I wanted to play at a very competitive level.”
Three years ago, Daly Santana was extremely uncomfortable in interviews, mainly because she was unsure of her English. Now the Gophers’ lone senior returnee and all-conference outside hitter speaks like a seasoned veteran.
Before she turns 21 next February, Santana will have completed her collegiate career and plans to graduate next spring with her youth studies degree. The Puerto Rican native this summer did an internship with a local social service agency.
“I went every other day, then I went every day for two weeks [just] before preseason,” explained Santana. “I really enjoyed [the internship because it made me see in a different way how people feel — it’s not about being a player at [the] U of M. I was part of their circle, and it was great.”
It took some convincing, but Kayla Buford’s mother finally came around and accepted her daughter playing volleyball.
The Canton, Michigan freshman said that her mom thought, since she got into the sport relatively late at age 15, that another sport might be better. “I always liked sports,” admitted Buford. “Volleyball seems to be the sport that suited me.”
“It was a little rough at first,” recalled the first-year middle blocker. “But despite the age, if you are athletic and work hard, a person can succeed. It made me a better person.”
Buford is interested in majoring in supply chain management at Minnesota. “The more I’m here, the happier [I am] about my decision.”
Growing up in Blaine, Taylor Morgan is well acquainted with the Minnesota campus, especially the school’s Bierman athletic building. Her father, Matt Bingle, is the Gophers women’s track and field and cross country director.
“I’ve always been around here,” she pointed out. “It feels good to know that a lot of my hard work has paid off and I am finally here. It feels good that I am actually here and not [just] passing through.”
Unfortunately, Morgan suffered an injury last month during the team’s intrasquad scrimmage and will miss the 2015 season. She is undecided on a major.
The sophomore libero (defensive specialist) from Puerto Rico admitted that she is handling both college volleyball and her English “a little bit” better. “I feel more mature on the court — more confident. I feel I fit in now.”
Rosado was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week two weeks ago.
“If my team succeeds, the award is a plus,” said Rosado, who is leaning toward a biology major. “We have to keep working hard as a team.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.