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Taking the next step: Eggert reflects on last Final Four run with the Gophers

East Ridge graduate Margaret Eggert (18) and the rest of the Minnesota bench celebrate a point during the NCAA Division I Final Four match in Ohio on Dec. 15. (Eric Miller/University of Minnesota)1 / 2
East Ridge graduate Margaret Eggert takes a swing at a ball during Minnesota’s senior night match against Wisconsin on Nov. 26. (Photo courtesy the University of Minnesota)2 / 2

Woodbury’s Margaret Eggert is preparing for a new journey after wrapping up her senior season of volleyball at the University of Minnesota earlier this month.

She experienced another long playoff run as the Gophers made their second consecutive trip to the NCAA Division I Final Four before losing in a four-set match to Stanford in Columbus, Ohio Dec. 15.

The Gophers had confidence going into the Final Four after advancing to the Division I semifinals last season. With this experience in hand, Eggert said the loss was a shock with all the confidence they had going into the match.

“The reason why this year it felt so difficult is because when we came into practice everything felt so good and everyone was clicking,” Eggert said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “We had the best practice of our lives the week before. Everything was running really smoothly.”

The eventual national champion Stanford put Minnesota in a big hole early after winning the first two sets 26-24, 25-19. The Gophers won the third set 25-22, but the Cardinal wrapped up the victory with a 25-22 win in set four. Stanford won the national championship Dec. 17 by defeating Texas in four sets.

Eggert did not get an opportunity to play during the University of Minnesota’s run to the Final Four. But she still exerted plenty of energy from the sidelines.

The Minnesota players on the bench made it a goal to be as supportive as possible from the sidelines during the NCAA playoffs. Multiple GIFs and videos on social media sites of their celebrations are proof.

“The big thing about playing in a big arena like that is that it’s huge,” Eggert said about their support during the Final Four match in Ohio. “It’s really tough to draw your own energy from your team because it is not your fans, and they are really distant. It’s just huge, and we really needed to fill the energy with the bench. That’s kind of the role we took on. We wanted to make sure it was positive energy out there.”

Cracking the talented Minnesota lineup, one of the best in the nation, was a challenge for the Woodbury senior. Eggert played in two matches this season, against Rutgers Oct. 28 and on senior night against Wisconsin Nov. 26.

Although Eggert hoped to get more playing time in her senior season, she emphasized how the close relationships she had with her teammates were also important.

“It’s kind of different because we have so much respect for each other,” Eggert said. “I am Lexi (Hart) and Sarah (Wilhite)’s biggest fan, and I know they are my biggest fans, too. It’s tough because everyone wants to be out there, but I am also so proud of how well they are playing. They are great players, so it makes it easier that way.”

Eggert’s next challenge in her career is a potential future in professional volleyball now that she is graduating from Minnesota this month. NCAA rules prohibit players from signing with an agent during the season, so she was required to wait before getting her professional volleyball search started.

Many college volleyball players travel to Central America or overseas to play volleyball professionally after they graduate. After all, there are no professional volleyball leagues in the United States.

Eggert earned her undergraduate degree in communications after just three-and-a-half years of college between Ole Miss and Minnesota. Early graduation was in her plan to play professional volleyball, as those seasons start in January.

Eggert someday plans to return to the classroom, but right now her focus is keeping the volleyball dream alive.

“I’ve always known I wanted to go play professionally, so this is kind of what I intended anyways,” Eggert said. “But when I come back I would like to get my masters in business. I’m interested in brand managing, so I’m going to have to put that off until I get some more work experience. Right now, I am just focused on playing pro.”

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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