Gopher volleyball taps elusive chemistry of team spirit

AnotherViewsquareTeam chemistry is not an exact science. It can’t be recruited or acquired, and it certainly isn’t a guarantee of success at any level in any sport. But when it does materialize, and flourishes, it’s beautiful.

Team bonding has helped Gopher volleyball succeed this season; Daly Santana is number one, second from right.
Team bonding has helped Gopher volleyball succeed this season; Daly Santana is number one, second from right.

No matter the team sport, the key “chemical” ingredients for the recipe of success include a full commitment by every player — starter or reserve, senior to first timer — all buying in.  Talent, of course doesn’t hurt either.

Chemistry, among other things, is evident this season at the Sports Pavilion among the Minnesota volleyball team, who thus far have exceeded preseason prognostications. The Gophers (19-3, 11-1 Big Ten) collectively and impressively knocked off opponents in conference play.

“We’re good enough to do the things we want to do,” says senior Daly Santana confidently, who identified a couple more success ingredients, communication and trust, that have helped as well this season. Besides individual skill development, she said the returning players worked on this during the off-season.

“We figured out how to be honest with one another,” continues Santana. Among the off-court, off-season activities — some call it “team bonding” — were going to movies “and a lot of things” together, she points out.

“I think what’s different from last year is that we understand how that helps our team and how we play. Honestly, I think all of that wouldn’t have been created if we hadn’t opened up to each other like we have,” says Santana. “We figured out how to be honest with one another and how to communicate efficiently in a way that we know would be good for [the team].”

Thus far, trust and honesty have proven successful for the team this season. “If there is something that needs to be said, they [the players] can bring it up. Everyone is an equal,” says the senior. “We understand that it is nothing personal. We simply are trying to do the best we can, so anything personal stays out of that.”

Minnesota hosts Michigan and Michigan State this weekend at the Pavilion, two more opportunities for the home crowd to see chemistry in action as demonstrated by the Gophers volleyball team. Asked if that has largely made the difference on the court, Santana responds, “Definitely.”

 

Gopher soccer players earn Big Ten honors

Minnesota juniors Simone Kolander and Rashida Beal, both featured in our Gopher 100 series earlier this fall, both were recognized among the Big Ten individual soccer honors last week.

Kolander was named Big Ten Forward of the Year and first-team All-Big Ten. Beal made second-team All-Big Ten, and she — with a 3.92 GPA as a psychology major, was one of four Gopher soccer players named Academic All District.

 

Globe-tracking the Lynx

Teammates Seimone Augustus (Dynamo Kursk) and Anna Cruz (Nadezhda Orenburg) played against each other last weekend in Russia in EuroLeague play. Renee Montgomery plays for Canberra in Australia. Rebekkah Brunson played her first game in Italy (Passalacqua Ragusa) last week. Sylvia Fowles scored 27 points in her debut game for Beijing, China.

Other Lynx players in EuroLeague action: Devereaux Peters (UMMC Ekaterinberg), Janel McCarville (Abdullah Gul Uni), Shae Kelley (Energa Torun) and Tricia Liston (Perfumerias Avenida).

 

The MSR will provide regular updates on Minnesota Lynx players throughout the WNBA off-season.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.