Sade tunes help Gopher freshman calm pre-game jitters

Adanna Rollins in a game against Maryland Photo courtesy of the U of M

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 2018-19 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players. This week: Gopher freshman outside hitter Adanna Rollins


Adanna Rollins initially wasn’t sure what to expect as a U of M freshman volleyball player other than the quick necessity for her game to reach college-level shape. A new way to play was among several other things she had to quickly learn, which at first Rollins thought would take her longer than imagined as a first-year player.

On the contrary, thus far, the six-foot Texas-born outside hitter has shown this season that she’s a quick learner. Rollins was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week last week after her match-high 20 kills in a four-set victory at home against Nebraska October 20.

The second Huskies-Gophers match of the season sorely tested the home team’s resolve as they lost the first set for the first time at home, and then fought back deficits in the three succeeding sets to earn a victory on a night when they were not at their best.

Minnesota Coach Hugh McCutcheon afterwards told reporters, including the MSR, that it was a grown-up performance, especially for the talented young Rollins. “She grew up a couple of inches,” he observed. “A true freshman to have that kind of performance is remarkable. A great performance.”

“Hugh and the coaches have helped me,” Rollins simply said in her modest effort to deflect her coach’s praise that night.

Rollins and frosh libero CC McGraw have played in every set this season for the Gophers and started in all 20 matches — the former averages 2.46 kills per set. She was one of four Black starters against Nebraska along with redshirt junior Taylor Morgan, soph Stephanie Samedy and junior Alexis Hart. The sistahs all have played crucial roles in the U of M’s school-record 12-0 conference start, the best since a 7-0 start both in 1989 and 1999.

Rollins, Samedy and Hart were 1-2-3 in kills in the Nebraska win, but McCutcheon quickly noted, “We are not relying on one or two people to carry the load.” Samedy, Rollins, Hart, Regan Pittman and Morgan lead the team in kills. These five players have triple-digit kills already this year to help Minnesota have an even offensive balance.

Off the court, Rollins display a cool exterior completely opposite her on-court energetic play. This perhaps can be partly attributed to her musical diet of such artists as the legendary soulful and sultry Sade.

“I do listen to calm music before games,” she told us — “Love Is Stronger than Pride” and “Soldier of Love” are among her favorite Sade tunes. “I get anxious real easily and get nervous a lot,” and listening to Sade and others during her pre-match ritual “keeps me calm on the court,” the freshman noted.

McCutcheon reiterated his amazement on Rollins’ ability “to work through” any game jitters she might encounter.

“My goal is to play hard for my team,” Rollins continued. She arrived on campus during the winter semester and participated in spring ball. She said she believes that helped her transition.

“I had to change a lot of things” in regard to her hitting and serving, she noted. “If I would have come [later], it would have been a lot and taken me longer to figure it out.

“I’m good at listening and learning,” she said, “but I felt it was a lot of pressure on me. I had to do those things he [McCutcheon] is telling me to do [in order] to play in the fall. But I just stayed steady and kept listening and trying new things out.”

Evidently her approach has proven positive. “It’s definitely better than what I thought it would be,” Rollins said. And off court? “School’s good. I like it.”