The St. Thomas campus is very nice. I am thinking when basketball moves into their new facility volleyball will get some nice upgrades at Schoenecker arena. I would guess they will get a new locker room and team room once the basketball ones are vacant. Also they will be able to play their games at later times instead of 10 am sometimes. Minnesota staying a top tear team will only help the Tommies. I believe some kids who would have gone to other places who may not make a line up at Minnesota will end up going to St. Thomas. Their women’s basketball team has really started to pick up local talent. They have the 7th and 11th ranked players of 2024 committed to the WBB team. WBB was more competitive the. VB last year. I believe if St. Thomas can have a better season this year local talent will start to want to go there. 2 Minnesota kids transferring back there is also a good start.
As a Minnesota VB fan and a Minnesota HS volleyball coach my hope is St. Thomas can become a Creighton. I would love to see a sold out game in a big arena like Nebraska and Creighton did. I know we have a few years until then though.
I don't know if Pham can achieve what KBB has and I don't think the Minnesota fanbase is as rabid fervent as Nebraska. As it stands there are a healthy number of Minnesota girls who choose to play in the Summit at other schools (primarily UND, NDSU, USD, SDSU), getting those kind of players to stay home and go to St. Thomas would make a difference. Plus there are the girls who go to the D2 school Concordia.
Agree with hometown players staying home. Hometown players aren't 100% necessary, but it's nice to have that core to build around. In your opinion, can they get to that point in the near future? Say 2-3 years after they fully sponsor volleyball? (your opinion from a volleyball perspective, please).
I don't know anything about St. Thomas's NIL deals, but I know they can change the game for universities of a certain profile. I suspect St. Thomas will have some important alum/donors that would be more than willing to help out.
Here's the thing, St. Thomas will always be, not the Gophers. Most girls, I believe, grow up wanting to wear Maroon and Gold not Purple and White. The biggest draws for the Tommies will be/ are; being able to participate in the post season and the fact that they are D1. Looking at local girls who played 16's & 17's this year, I don't know if a lot of them committed to St. Thomas. I think MN Select Volleyball Club might become a good feeder for them (I'm seeing the schools in the BEast snatching up a few girls from Northern Lights).
NIL might also work in their favor depending on how aggressive they want to be in that department. All that being said I still see girls wanting to compete in the B1G TEN over the Summit or the BEast.
To improve, and get even more exposure, St. Thomas has to be able to beat Concordia (D2) and compete with the Gophers. imo Let's check back in five years and see where they're at.
As a long time Gophers fan and alum who finds it difficult and too crowded in the Pav to watch the Gophers in person these days, I am excited for UST to grow in volleyball. I will probably become a regular at their matches this season.
My take on the team after watching yesterday…. I’m super bummed they are 0-2 because the improvement is there. Scheduling did not go in their favor yesterday. Having to wait an hour to play UIC. Going 5 and then playing right away at 5.
They mixed up their lineups a lot. It’s early so I get it, but I’m hoping that yesterday made things a little clearer.
Freshman: Kealy impressed me. Was not perfect but I’m so glad they ran a 5-1. She was aggressive at the net. Set a couple of really nice sets to the outside when she was going the opposite direction. She really tries yo get the kiddies involved. That setting was a little inconsistent but I like that she was going there.
Gustafson: Really impressed me. I thought she did a very nice job with OOS balls. I hope she gets the start today.
Schmotzer: Didn’t dress. Looks like a wrist injury in a picture. I really want to see her play. I think the 2nd middle remains a question.
Unongo: Played a little bit in set 1…Did not really form an opinion
Voegele: Solid. I thought she got better and better in the UIC match. She is definitely an upgrade from a season ago. I’m excited to watch her.
Peterson: I only saw her play 1 set. I didn’t really form an opinion either way.
Returners: Kopp: played a DS role. I thought it was a good fit. She served well.
Willman: played back row and served sometimes for Galvin. I also liked that.
Galvin: Didn’t start the second set. Subbed in at the end. She is still the best hitting outside. Played better as the day went.
Wetter: decent offensively….not a great block
Dammann: so great for the program, I don’t think she is a D1 caliber player.
Mattila: didn’t play much
Luta Win Hunt: did not set much was used as serving specialist and set a little bit in the first game when they went for a blocking sub.
Ricard: got blocked a few times, had some nice blocks. She connects well with Kaely. I see her having a nice year
FOX 9+ will air select home St. Thomas athletic events on its Twin Cities channels, including the final four football games and select basketball and hockey games....
...Production for both FOX 9+ and Midco Sports Plus will continue to be provided by the University of St. Thomas, including activation of student experiences, with FOX 9+ providing an onsite reporter during select events.
So it sounds like a handful of events will have an "onsite reporter" from Fox. But otherwise the programming will remain as student play-by-play. I'd at least call this an opportunity to expand the fan base, and an opportunity to expand Summit content to MSP viewers. Midco Sports would be better, though. They would hire a designated "UST guy (or gal)" to do play-by-play, analysis and reporting, just like they do with their other school partners. And adding more sports like volleyball would be better too. Baby steps.
I think that St Thomas is a good barometer to see how good or bad the conference is as a whole. The steady upward trajectory of the Tommies is almost inevitable, given the solid coaching, the academic desirability, financial stability, urban location with outstanding recruiting opportunities (MSP), and nice facilities. The only thing holding them back is the fact that they are not yet fully funded in scholarships.
And they are on a graded plan to gradually increase the available scholarships. I don't know what the plan is, but Coach Pham said in an interview that they were "starting at 4" last year (which was their second year of D-1 play).
So it could be: 0,4,8,12 four-year plan 0,4,4,8,8,12 six-year plan 0,4,6,8,10,12 six-yer plan 0,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12 ten-year plan...
I'd guess on one of the 6-year plans, since they can't participate in NCAA post-season for the first 5 years anyway.
So here is the progress so far: 2021 3-25(2-16)#9 of 10 | #sets won = 15 2022 4-26(2-16)#9 of 10 | #sets won = 24 2023 4-11(0-4) #8T of 9 | # sets won = 18 (so far)
So even if UST only beats the last place team (ORU) twice, just like in previous years, there is still progress in total wins, and progress in sets won. I think we will see more than that, though. UST is better, but I think the middle-tier of the conference is also better this year. Hard to say what will happen. The matches with SDSU and ORU will be key, and I could see an upset win, too. Next year (year 4) might be the "breakout" when they join the middle-tier more consistently, and start joining the SLT tournament. I think they will be a top-tier team around the 6-year to 7-year mark. Honestly that's a pretty quick rise, all things considered.
Now that I'm thinking about it, I may have misunderstood Coach Pham's comments last year. In addition to saying he was "starting with four" scholarships, he also was talking about honoring the committments that they already had with existing players....
So it might just be a case of "if you were recruited as non-scholarship, you won't be cut, but you won't necessarily get an athletic scholarship eigher". So the athletic scholarships become available as non-scholarship athletes graduate or transfer out (or quit). So it's basically a 4-year process. That would make sense.
A new podcast interview with coach Pham is coming out this week or next week.