Volleyball | 7/21/2021 8:50:00 AM
The University of Minnesota volleyball team has had a significant presence in the Olympics during the past two decades. That will continue in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, as Gophers alumnae Tori Dixon (’14), Hannah Tapp (’16) and Sarah Wilhite Parsons (’16) were named as alternates for this year’s team. Minnesota volleyball has been represented at each Olympic Games since 2004.
Let’s take a look into the history of Gophers competing in the Olympics.
Lindsey Berg (2004, 2008 and 2012; U.S.; Indoor): A Honolulu, Hawaii native, Berg played for the Gophers from 1998-2001. The setter was a three-time First Team All-Big Ten selection and a four-time Team MVP. She made three appearances on the AVCA All-Region team and earned the Big Ten Medal of Honor in 2001. She led the Gophers to three NCAA Tournaments, including two Sweet 16’s. Berg ranks fifth all-time in Big Ten history in both service aces (283) and fourth in assists (5,913). She has also been twice named USA Volleyball Indoor Female Athlete of the Year, winning the award in 2008 and 2011. Berg was inducted into the Minnesota ‘M’ Club Hall of Fame in 2012.
After college, Berg began playing professionally with the Minnesota Chill before moving on to Colorado Springs, Colo., to try out for the United States national team. She also played professionally in Italy and Turkey. She went on to play in three Olympics, becoming a captain on both the 2008 and 2012 teams that competed in Beijing and London, respectively. Berg made her Olympic debut on the 2004 team in Athens, which finished fifth. Both the 2008 and 2012 teams took home the silver medal, falling to Brazil in the final each time. In 2012, Berg played for Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon.
Nicole Branagh (2008, U.S.; Beach): Nicole Branagh was a member of Golden Gopher volleyball from 1997-2000. Following an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention freshman season, she emerged as a star in 1998, when she earned the first of three First Team All-Big Ten honors. In 1999, she added an All-America honor to her resume. As a senior in 2000, the Orinda, Calif., native earned her third consecutive First Team All-Big Ten selection and her second straight All-America nod. She was also named the Big Ten Player of the Year that season. Her 2,379 career kills are the most in school history and, at the time, set a new mark for the entire Big Ten conference. In 2014, Branagh was inducted into the Minnesota “M” Club Hall of Fame.
Branagh qualified for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in beach volleyball with then teammate Elaine Youngs. Branagh and Youngs joined Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh as the second team from the U.S. to qualify for the 2008 Olympics.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh, who were ranked No. 1 in the world at the time, won gold medals in beach volleyball in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics. In 2008, Branagh and Youngs finished second in points among U.S. teams during the Olympic qualifying stage. They ended up finishing fifth at the 2008 Olympic games, falling in the quarterfinals (17-21, 13-21) to the fourth-ranked Chinese team of Xue Chen and Zhang Xi, which went on to win the bronze medal.
Tori Dixon (2016, 2020, U.S.; Indoor): Dixon was a standout for the Gopher Volleyball program from 2010-13. A two-time All-American and All-Big Ten selection, Dixon ranks first in the Minnesota record books as the program’s most efficient hitter. During her career, Dixon hit .369, including .436 her junior year. She helped the Gophers to three Sweet 16’s and an Elite Eight during her time on the team.
She went on to play professionally following her senior season in 2013 and since then has been a regular within the USA Volleyball gym. Playing professionally since 2013, Dixon has competed in a variety of locations internationally, including Azerbaijan, China, Italy and Japan.
Dixon was named as an alternate for the 2020 team that is set to compete in Tokyo. She was also an alternate for the 2016 Olympic team after suffering a torn ACL early in 2016. She played a key role in helping the team qualify for the Olympics in August 2019, starting in all three matches for the United States. She tallied 11 kills, nine blocks and three aces. In the match where Team USA claimed an Olympic berth, Dixon added a team-high four blocks.
Daly Santana (2016, Puerto Rico; Indoor): The 2015 Big Ten Player of the Year, Daly Santana (2012-15) helped Minnesota to its first Big Ten title since 2002. A two-time First Team All-American, Santana finished her career with 1,644 career kills, 182 aces and 1,280 digs, all of which ranks in the top 10 in Minnesota school history. She helped the Gophers reach the Sweet 16 three times, including one Elite Eight and a Final Four in 2015.
Since concluding her Gopher career, Santana played professionally for the San Juan Capitalinas, where she was named the league’s most valuable player and helped the team to a runner-up title. She has also played professionally in Italy and Turkey.
The Corozal, Puerto Rico native was one of four outside hitters named to Puerto Rico’s national team roster in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. It marked a historical team as the first Puerto Rican team to ever qualify for the Olympic Games. The team went 0-5 in group play and failed to advance to the knockout rounds.
Hannah Tapp (2020, U.S.; Indoor): Hannah Tapp (2013-16) was a two-time American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American, a two-time All-Big Ten honoree, a three-time Academic All-Big Ten selection and Academic All-District honoree in her time at Minnesota. She played a key role in leading the Gophers in back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2015 and 2016. Tapp ranks No. 1 all-time at Minnesota in block assists (519), No. 2 in blocks (551) and No. 5 in attack percentage (.326).
During the summer of 2015, she was one of 12 members that competed with the Team USA Collegiate National Team on its China Tour. After her college career ended, she began competing professionally, playing in leagues in Germany, Italy and Japan.
Tapp has been a member of the National Team since 2017 and made her international debut at the 2017 FIVB World Grand Prix. She was named one of six alternates for the 2020 USA Volleyball National Team, which is set to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics this summer.
Sarah Wilhite Parsons (2020, U.S.; Indoor): With Minnesota, Wilhite Parsons (2013-16) was an All-Big Ten selection and an All-American in 2016. She was Minnesota’s first player to ever be named the AVCA National Player of the Year, winning the award in 2016. Wilhite Parsons was also named the ESPNW National Player of the Year and the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2016 while leading the Gophers to their second consecutive Final Four. She averaged a Big Ten best 4.20 kills per set as a senior and notched a career-high 537 kills, hitting .288 for the year.
She has played professionally in Brazil, Italy and Germany since graduating from the ‘U’ in 2016. Like Tapp, Wilhite Parsons has been a member of the U.S. National Team since 2017. She was also named one of six alternates for the 2020 USA Volleyball National Team.
Hugh McCutcheon (2012, U.S.; Indoor): Coach McCutcheon, who’s entering his 10th season at the helm of Minnesota volleyball, was the head coach of both the 2008 United States Men’s National Team and the 2012 United States Women’s National Team. He led the men’s team to a perfect 8-0 record and a gold medal finish at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The U.S. won five of its eight matches in four sets or less, including a 3-1 triumph over Brazil in the final. He was also an assistant coach on the 2004 men’s team that competed in the Olympics in Athens and finished fourth.
As the head coach of the 2012 women’s team, McCutcheon led them to a 7-1 record and a silver medal finish in the London Olympic Games. The U.S. won five of its first seven matches in straight sets before falling in the gold medal match to Brazil, 3-1. He coached former Gopher Lindsey Berg on the 2012 team, who was a co-captain setter.
McCutcheon mentored the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team to a No. 1 world ranking in 2012, racking up a 106-39 record during his time as the coach. Previously, he led the U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team program to the 2008 Olympic Games gold medal. Counting his 107-33 record leading the U.S. Men’s program from 2005 to 2008, McCutcheon held a combined record of 213-72 with USA Volleyball. He had the men’s team ranked as high as No. 2 in the FIVB World Rankings.
How to Watch:
The United States National Team will open up the 2020 Olympic Games on Saturday, July 24. They will take on Argentina on Saturday before playing four other games in group play against China (7/26), Turkey (7/29), Russia (7/30) and Italy (8/1). The U.S. enters the Olympics ranked No. 1 in the world according to FIVB’s rankings. Follow along with the team’s journey at olympics.com/tokyo-2020/en/.
🎉IT’S #TokyoOlympics WEEK!🎉
Here are the schedules for the 🇺🇸 Olympic Volleyball Teams. Which match are you most looking forward to? pic.twitter.com/4pltTHlPjj
— USA Volleyball (@usavolleyball) July 19, 2021