MINNEAPOLIS -- Alexis Hart couldn’t contain her laughter when asked about the most recognizable amenity added to Maturi Pavilion entering this season.
Never mind the state-of-the-art weight room that now sits behind a wall adjacent to the court. Or the brand-new locker room that more closely resembles a palace.
As cool as that stuff is, at least for now, the most important thing for Hart, and the rest of the Minnesota Gophers volleyball team for that matter, is the fact that their home court finally has air conditioning.
“I sweat a lot,” said Hart, a senior outside hitter for the Gophers. “I’m only going through two shirts in practice now instead of four shirts. It’s been a lot nicer.”
It’s not just that Maturi Pavilion used to get hot in summer. It was basically a sauna that created unsafe conditions when the temperature outside approached triple digits.
Just last season the Gophers were forced to cancel a home match against Kansas State when Minnesota athletics director Mark Coyle cited extreme heat that made the space unplayable.
Asked how bad it used to get inside the building, coach Hugh McCutcheon emphasized how “it wasn’t fun” to deal with those harsh conditions in practices, especially during the preseason.
“You worried about injuries and really had to monitor workload,” McCutcheon said. “It’s hard enough to do the work we need to do without having to add that extra layer of extreme temperatures to go with it. It’s a big advantage now to be in a more tempered climate.”
In turn, the preseason has been going much more smoothly for the Gophers, who begin their nonconference schedule on the road against North Carolina and Florida State over Labor Day weekend.
“I just think the quality of training has been really good, and I think a lot of it has to do with the environment being much more conducive to performance than it was before,” McCutcheon said. “It’s not like we are dreading coming in here because of the heat. We want to get here because it’s pleasant. Those are words that haven’t always been used to described The Pav.”
Sometimes it’s even a little too pleasant, according to junior opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy, who added that the underclassmen on the roster have it made in the shade now.
“You come in here and have a sweater on and it’s actually kind of cold,” Samedy said with a laugh. “It’s not like we were walking out and immediately starting to sweat.”
While it’s a little overzealous to say that the A/C will equate to a national championship, it certainly doesn’t hurt as the Gophers begin their quest"
“Like every program, we are trying to eliminate all the barriers,” McCutcheon said. “It’s tough to become the best that we can be, and it’s even tougher when it’s 98 degrees in here. It’s worked out very well so far.”