Julia Hanson should play a bigger role this season for the University of Minnesota women’s volleyball team.
The 2022 Prior Lake High School graduate showed flashes of her talent in her first season with the Gophers. She appeared in just 10 matches, recording 33 kills.
However, Minnesota was loaded with talent, finishing the season with 22-9 overall record, 15-5 in the Big Ten, going 2-1 in the NCAA Championships.
The Gophers also have a new coach this season in Keegan Cook, who comes over after eight seasons as head coach at the University of Washington. So Hanson and her teammates will have to prove themselves all over again.
“The biggest thing was like, ‘Am I going to have a spot on this team and do they still want me?’” Hanson said on gophersports.com. “It was a brand new staff and they had never seen me play. At the same time, I just thought I had an opportunity to show the coaches what I can do and it was a fresh start.
“They get to see me for who I am and I get to prove myself.”
Minnesota has a ton of success at the Division I level in the last decade. Since 2013, the program has reached the NCAA Final Four three times and regional semifinals four times.
The team has recorded 20 or more wins seven times in that span, including a 30-win season in 2015. The Gophers were 16-3 in the shortened 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Hanson the goals remain the same, despite a new coaching regime.
“I think winning the Big Ten and national titles are achievable,” she said. “We need to push ourselves to get out of our comfort zone and make sure that we play as a team. Personally, I just want to work as hard as I can and find a spot on the court. I also want to be the best teammate I can.”
Hanson showed she was ready for high-level volleyball last year. She had three kills in college debut against Baylor, a four-set win. She made her first start against Texas Christian and had four kills and a dig in a three-set victory.
Then, against Texas, ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time, she recorded a season-best 14 kills in a four-set loss.
At Prior Lake, Hanson was a four-year letter winner, winning the Ms. Baden Award in her final season, which is given to the top senior in the state by the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association.
She was a two-time all-state selection and named All-South Suburban Conference three times. She was also named an American Volleyball Coaches Association Second Team All-American following her senior year.
Hanson finished her senior season with the Lakers with 537 kills. That was second most in the state behind Tezra Rudzitis of Legacy Christian, who finished with 574.
Hanson left Prior Lake as the program’s all-time kills leader with 1,490. Her 537 kills as a senior were also single-season record for the Lakers. Her 712 career digs are fourth all-time, while her 98 career ace serves are 10th all-time.
Minnesota will open the season in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Aug. 25, taking on TCU at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis. The Big Ten opener is set for Sept. 21 at Iowa.
For more on the Gophers, go to gophersports.com/sports/womens-volleyball.