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Catching up with... Lindsey Berg

By Megan Malugani

Women’s pro volleyball in the U.S. fizzled after only one season (the spring of 2002), but Hawaii native Lindsey Berg—a star setter for the Minnesota Chill, the team that was based in Rochester—says her volleyball experience in the Med City was an important professional stepping stone. Since her stint in Rochester, Berg has competed in two Olympics (Athens in 2004, where her team placed fifth, and Beijing in ‘08, where her team won silver) and she spent several years between Olympics playing volleyball professionally in Italy. And while there’s no question she’s hit the big time, Berg—now 28—says that helping lead the Chill to the one and only United States Professional Volleyball championship seven years ago at Mayo Civic Center “definitely still stands as one of the highlights” of her career.

Rochester Magazine: What are your favorite memories of your months spent in Rochester?
Lindsey Berg: It was a whirlwind and it went so fast. I met some great people and had some great coaches. I got to play with Nicole Brannagh [a former teammate at the University of Minnesota] again and with Wiz Bachman. I was so lucky to do that just coming out of school ... I think we got the best crowds of the four teams in the league. Minnesota is just a great place to be a volleyball player, and Rochester supported us to a huge extent. Minnesota and Rochester would have continued to support the team, but the league fell through.

RM: In 2002, when you won the USPV’s award for top setter in the league, the Rochester Post-Bulletin said that you had “turned setting into an art form” and that you had “a rocket of a serve that has been clocked at more than 50 mph by a radar gun.” Has your serve gotten any faster?
LB: I haven’t clocked it recently, but I have continued to be successful with my serve. I made a big impact against Italy [in the 2008 Olympics] with my serve. It was the quarterfinal game to get to the medal round. We were down 2 to 1. We came into the fourth game and we started the game off 8-0 with my serve.

RM: What were the highlights of the ‘08 Olympics for you?
LB: Definitely the Italy match was one of the highlights, along with winning the silver medal [in a loss to Brazil]. I knew my team was good enough that if we won the game against Italy we would get to the gold medal [match]. We just had to get past Italy. It was very emotional for me. I just knew this was our time. This was our game. I was very focused, very intense. I wasn’t going to let my team lose. The main reason I’d come back to the national team was to help the team get a medal.
Then, obviously, you can’t beat the experience of playing in a gold medal match. It was bittersweet losing. We were getting a silver medal we didn’t expect going into the games.

RM: What was it like to have the Olympics affected by the Beijing murder of Todd Bachman, the father of your former teammate, Wiz Bachman?
LB: We’re very close with Wiz. She was on the Athens Olympic team with us. It hit us very hard. We found out the day of our first game. We were woken up in the middle of a nap. We were very nervous about why we were woken up and it turned into the biggest tragedy anyone could have imagined. We were thinking about Wiz the whole time. She was somebody always on our minds.

RM: You played volleyball professionally in Italy for four years between Olympics. Is it ever frustrating or discouraging that volleyball is more popular overseas than in the U.S.?
LB: It’s definitely frustrating. It’s a great experience going overseas to play, but it’s too bad we don’t have the opportunity to play professionally here ... We got a lot of exposure this Olympics. Volleyball is huge here with younger girls and huge with girls in college. But once you get to the professional level you’ve got to go somewhere else to play.

RM: Do you make enough money playing volleyball six to seven months a year in Italy to support yourself?
LB: It’s an unbelievable living.

RM: You are currently recovering from knee surgery. What are your post-recovery plans?
LB: Right now I’m doing rehab on my knee in Minneapolis. I’m just recovering and taking the year off ... It’s a break I definitely needed. I’ve been playing since I was six years old. It’s a blessing in disguise, but definitely a learning experience, not doing what I normally do. Sometimes I get frustrated. I’ve just got to get through this year and I’ll be back. ... I think I’m going to try again to go for another Olympics. There’s so much young talent that who knows if I’ll make the team anyway? ...There are girls playing in their late 30s, so I think it’s a personal decision.
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