The University of Minnesota volleyball program has announced the addition of sophomore libero/defensive specialist Kate Thibault to the team. A Watertown, Minn., native, Thibault comes to Minnesota after spending the past season at the University of Oregon. She’ll have three years of eligibility left.

“It’s another special day for the Minnesota Volleyball program,” said head coach Keegan Cook. “Kate Thibault is an enthusiastic, highly athletic competitor who provides immediate depth and experience to a position group we have been rebuilding in the last 18 months. Kate returns home to Minnesota after gaining key competitive experiences in a high-performing program who had an extremely successful season. There is no question she is a better student-athlete for the time she spent with her previous coaching staff. I am excited for the opportunity to continue her development here at Minnesota. Go Gophers!”

As a rookie, she played in 19 matches for Oregon on a team that finished 29-6 (16-4 Pac-12) and made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. She averaged 1.34 digs, 0.31 aces and 0.08 assists per set in 2023. Thibault recorded two 10+ dig matches and established four-or-more digs eight times. She had at least one ace in 10 matches, including seven matches with multiple aces.

“I’m just so stoked to be a Gopher,” said Thibault. “Being from Minnesota, it was my dream to play for my home state. I’m the most excited to be back in front of the home crowd and most importantly, my family. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am so grateful for this opportunity to finish my career back home!”

In high school, she was one of five finalists for the Ms. Baden Award in 2022, which is given annually to the top senior player in the state of Minnesota. A two-time Class 2A all-state performer for Watertown-Mayer H.S., she finished prep career with nearly 2,300 digs, breaking the state digs record as a senior.

Thibault averaged 5.59 digs per set during the 2022 campaign and finished the year with 458 total digs, a top-15 mark in the state. She tallied 10+ digs in 26 of 28 matches, including four outings with at least 25 digs. Thibault also led the team with 57 service aces.

The sophomore-to-be is the daughter of Chris and Rachel Thibault. She has two siblings, Drew and Paige. Paige currently plays collegiate volleyball at Auburn University. Her mom, Rachel, played in college at Denver University while her dad, Chris, played amateur beach volleyball. She will major in sports management at Minnesota.

In 2023, the ‘U’ went 17-13 (12-8 Big Ten) and went to the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32. The Gophers won an NCAA Tournament match for the ninth straight season and finished fifth in the conference standings in year one under head coach Keegan Cook.

(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)

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