Sneaky blocker’s rare skills compensate for short stature

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 2021-22 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players.

This week: first-year volleyball player Natalie Glenn

Gopher Athletics Natalie Glenn

An under-six-foot-tall college volleyball player, especially in Division I, is rare because of their blocking duties. Nevertheless, 5’-10” outside hitter Natalie Glenn, in her first year at Minnesota, has the stuff to make the exception.

“The middle is an incredibly special talent,” explained Minnesota Coach Hugh McCutcheon of Glenn, the Southlake, Texas native. She is the only Black player among four freshmen on the 2021 roster. “She is a very good outside hitter, and I don’t think your size really plays into it,” the coach said.

A sly-smiling Glenn told the MSR after her six kills-one assist performance against St. Thomas Sept. 15, “I think as I progress through my years at Minnesota that I could be like a little sneaky blocker.”

After a prep career with 1,911 kills and 204 blocks, a multiple All-American and a USA Volleyball Girls Youth National Training Team member, Glenn left the Lone Star State for the 10,000-Lakes State. But she knows full well that her undersized stature as a middle/outside hitter “has its disadvantages and advantages” as a college volleyball player, she said. “I have more range since I’m shorter, so I have to be able to hit certain shots that if I was taller I wouldn’t have to.”

McCutcheon added, “She can hit with a ton of power and range. She can pass, she can dig, she can defend.”

Glenn wears number 83, the highest uniform number in Gopher history, in honor of her late father Terry Glenn, an 11-year NFL wide receiver and former Ohio State walk-on who later earned a scholarship. He died in 2017.

“My father was a very big part of my life,” she said proudly. “When he passed away it just shattered my world. Being able to wear his number and keep his memory alive, it is really, really awesome.”

“We’re glad she’s here,” said McCutcheon of Glenn. “I think her ball control is a really important part of the game. I think her offensive range is good, especially being a left-handed outside [hitter], which is a pretty rare thing.”

Glenn said her first college semester thus far “is a lot of reading and reading.” She hopes to study either sports management or business and human development.