In tandem with the breakout season for her team last fall, junior Hannah Tapp broke through in a major way as an individual performer. Tapp had been named to the conference’s All-Freshman team two years ago and was a preseason pick to be All-Big Ten as a sophomore but it was last season, marked by her 365 kills (second on team) and 140 blocks (third) that led to her unanimous selection to the All-Big Ten squad and her first career All-America nod, also a first team selection.
“I was very fortunate to be in the spot that I had and the role that I took this season, being more of a contributor [to] point-scoring,” said Tapp as she reflected on the best statistical season of her career. “We also had a lot of great improvements around me that helped my job and made my job a lot easier. … As the whole team improves, the rising tide lifts all boats.”
Last fall, that tide reached its high-water mark since current head coach Hugh McCutcheon took over the program in 2012. The 2015 edition of Gopher Volleyball marched through the Big Ten season with a 18-2 mark to claim the program’s first conference championship since 2002. As their region’s top seed in the NCAA tournament, the Gophers won the regional title and reached the Final Four for the fourth time in the past 13 seasons.
“It was a great step for the growth our program is trying to have,” said Tapp, who has witnessed that growth firsthand during her time at Minnesota. “We made these little incremental changes throughout [the year] which really got us to where were at the end of the season. It was amazing to make it to a Final Four.
“We still have big dreams and goals. We’re working hard again to hopefully make it farther [next season].”
Working hard to achieve her goals is nothing new to Tapp. Going back to her freshman year of high school, Tapp wasn’t selected for the varsity team at Stewartville High School in southern Minnesota. She settled for playing the role of team manager until making the team as a sophomore. By the time she graduated from Stewartville, Tapp was on her way to the U of M, where the hard work and the help of her teammates has helped her grow into an All-American talent.
“We obviously try to portray what it means to work hard, what it means to go out there and battle every day,” Tapp said. “We try to be this female warrior when we’re on the court that little girls, or even older girls, can aspire to be like.”
When Tapp uses “we” in this specific case, she’s talking about her volleyball teammates, but she’s also quick to point out that volleyball players aren’t the only athletes at Minnesota putting in hard work every day.
“Being a Gopher women’s athlete is just amazing,” she said. “The support is great. All of the other athletic programs are doing their part. We’re all working hard trying to make Gopher sports something to be proud of.”
First Team All-American
First Team All-Big Ten