The Tommie volleyball team was invited to breakfast with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton in honor of its recent NCAA Division III championship.
As Dayton greeted the team in the foyer of the Minnesota Governor’s Residence, head coach Thanh Pham gave him a purple Tommie volleyball national championship T-shirt. According to Dayton, “Purple is my favorite color.”
Dayton commented on how he invites national championship teams of all sports to the mansion on Summit Avenue, mentioning the Minnesota Lynx, who won the WNBA championship in 2011. “But I’ve never had a men’s team here,” he said.
After a tour of the residence on which the team met the governor’s German shepherds Wanamingo and Itasca, breakfast was served in the solarium, a room that was once visited by Eleanor Roosevelt. Dayton sat across from Pham, who recalled the environment in the arena as the Tommies took on Calvin College in the national championship in November.
“They had about 3,500 fans there. We had about 60, but they were a loud 60,” Pham said. The game took place at Hope College in Holland, Mich., about a half-hour from Calvin’s campus. Dayton commented, “So it was basically a home game for them.”
Having the opportunity to meet the governor was a special experience for the team, according to Pham: “Winning the championship has allowed us to do some fun things and meet so many new people. Meeting the governor is definitely something the girls will never forget.”
Pham was also impressed seeing his players off the court in more of a social setting: “To get to see them interact with each other and other people gives me a whole different perspective. It reminds me that they will be professionals in something other than volleyball someday.”
Senior Kia Johnson described meeting the governor as an honor. "Getting to do something like this shows how all our hard work has paid off," she said.
Junior Nicole Potts recognized the breakfast as a once in a lifetime opportunity. “Although, I suppose we could meet him again next year,” she said. “This seems like a place that you always just drive by and wonder what it’s like inside.”
Sophomore Sydney Westfield thought it was a rare experience as well. “Not many people get to meet him, let alone have breakfast with him,” she said.
Sophomore and the national tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award winner Jill Greenfield found Dayton to be very personable: “He took the time to get to know each one of and ask us where we are from.”
As the team said goodbye to Dayton, Greenfield shook his hand and said, “Purple looks good on you.”
In the 2012 season, the Tommies posted a 40-1 record, an all-time conference best for victories and winning percentage in volleyball. During the national tournament, the Tommies became the second team in the 32-year history of D-III nationals to rally from a 2-0 set deficit and win the last three sets of the championship match.