With every well-timed swing of the arm, Danielle Minch adds credibility to those who believed in her.
CSU’s breakout player of the year without question, Minch has finally delivered on the potential she brought to the program two years ago upon signing with the Rams.
Minch’s road to collegiate success has been anything but ordinary. Until seventh grade, the blonde had never played volleyball at any level. Her first experience came when she was asked to fill in as a substitute for a local travel team.
In doing so, Minch began a decorated volleyball career, starting all four years in her time at Sterling High School, while winning two Colorado 4A State Championships. Minch, who had originally committed to the University of Nebraska, opted to sign with the Rams when she was asked to grey-shirt her freshman year in Lincoln.
“I was very fortunate that (CSU head coach Tom) Hilbert had a spot open for me,” Minch said. “My family comes to every home game, which has been a real plus.”
Hilbert and the Rams must feel like the fortunate ones the way Minch has developed this season.
“Dani has matured more than anyone else from last year to this year,” Hilbert said. “She has always been very talented, but this season she has begun eliminating the negatives from her game.”
In talking with players and coaching staff, a common theme regarding Minch is her progression in terms of leadership.
“(Minch) is definitely a leader and is becoming more vocal on the court,” said senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson, “but she leads by example the most.”
Minch has set quite the example for the Rams this season, leading the team with 212 kills. Despite her success, you’d be hard pressed to find the ever-modest Minch praising herself.
“I guess my strength is my ability to execute the ball well,” she said.
Minch’s teammates aren’t so reserved in regards to No. 13’s break out season.
“I’ve always told her she’s the best hitter on the team,” Nelson said. “I’m excited about the success she’s been having. She really deserves all of it.”
Nelson, the MWC pre-season player of the year, was one of a handful of Rams Minch cited as mentors in her first two years on the team, along with departed players Jaime Strauss and Ashley Fornstrom. Strauss, like Minch, starred at outside hitter for the Rams.
“I urge the more experienced players to mentor,” said Hilbert, “but they usually take it upon themselves to do that anyways. They remember who mentored them as freshmen.”
Minch understands that she is now making the transition from student to teacher, and is taking it upon herself to lead the next generation of Ram stars.
“I try and lead by example,” Minch said. “If anyone ever needs help, in or outside volleyball, I try and offer them advice through my experience.”
This true sisterhood is what has transformed Rams volleyball into a perennial conference contender and NCAA Tournament attendee.
“My closest friends are on the team,” Minch said. “Whenever we go out and do something, it’s as a team.”
Minch and the Rams now face their most important week of the season, as they play host to their two biggest rivals in succession, with BYU on Thursday night, followed by Utah on Saturday afternoon.
Volleyball beat reporter Joel Hafnor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.