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Bump, Set, & GOLDEN Spike! 2015 Minnesota Volleyball Preview

Last year was a bit of a down year for the Minnesota Gopher Volleyball team, will they be back to form this year? We will find out soon enough as the #31 Gophers take on both #30 Texas A&M and #2 Stanford this weekend on the road to start the season.

While the Minnesota Gophers Volleyball team under now 4th year head coach Hugh McCutcheon had a somewhat disappointing year in 2014, finishing 8th in the Big Ten and without a invite to the big dance; they did have several promising performances that got rewarded in the off season. Does that mean that the Gophers will be more golden this year? Lets hope so as the #31 Gophers take on both #30 Texas A&M and #2 Stanford this weekend on the road to start the season.

2015 Gopher Volleyball Schedule Poster


VB 101: General Introduction to Volleyball

I'm stealing this section from my 2014 preview piece verbatim.

Minnesota Volleyball X's & O's


OK, to be honest, I have no idea if volleyball is one of the growing sports in the world, but if I had to guess or make something up, I'm guessing it is. While in America we do have professional volleyball of the beach variety (AVP), in the rest of the world they have both women's and men's pro indoor leagues, which many of the top US players play in; but I have heard talk of pro leagues being started in the US, including a Minnesota Team (note there was a short-lived, 1 year, pro league for women in the US in 2002).

Fast paced, easy to follow....These women dive headfirst into the action.

In my opinion what makes volleyball a great sport to watch is that it is a fast paced, easy to follow game that lets you get close to the action. Unlike the way you may have played as a kid, a point is scored on each volley (rally point) and the the set is played to 25 points (win by 2). Matches are a best of 5 series with a break after every two sets. Many of you may think Volleyball is a relaxed easy-going game, it is not. These women dive headfirst into the action, get struck in the face by spikes hit with incredible force, and have to sprint and change direction with lightning quick reflexes, then jump up and attack the ball (hard to say without a run-on sentence). For an example of this, check out these 2013 highlights from the 2013 NCAA tournament.

If you need a primer on the basics of volleyball, Wikipedia does a decent job.

2014 & Earlier

Hakuna matata; put your past behind you....and if you can't read my 2014 Minnesota Volleyball Recap article which is full of stats and opinions.

As you can see below, the Gopher's had a drop in performance compared to the earlier years in McCutcheon era.

2011-2015 Gopher Volleyball Rsults

2011-2015 Academic Years Gopher Volleyball Rsults

For the first time in at least 4 years the Gophers failed to get invited to the NCAA Volleyball tournament and finished the season unranked.

The Roster

Here is what I wrote at the end of last year:

Minnesota was a young team. On senior day they only had two players to say goodbye to out of 14.

With the great experience gained this year by so many of these players, plus many of our Big Ten brethren being senior laden this year, the Gophers are poised to have a big year next year. Look for the Gophers to return to the NCAA tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16. Santana, Tapp, and Wilhite are all strong candidates to make preseason All-Big Ten lists.

Here is the 2015 roster or you can take a look at the official roster page.

2015 Minnesota Volleyball Roster

2015 Minnesota Volleyball Roster

The Gophers return 10 letter winners from last year, including 7 who started at least one game. Of these, Paige Tapp stands out and has been named to the preseason All-Big Ten team as a middle blocker; not s surprise as she was both All-American (3rd Team)and All-Big Ten last year. Other upper-classmen to keep an eye on this season are senior Daly Santana (2014 All-American honorable mention), and juniors Hannah TappKatie Schau, and Sarah Wilhite. The only other senior (besides Santana) on the roster is Toni Alugbue who while a redshirt senior, is a new Gopher, having transfered from Notre Dame. Alugbue sat out the 2014 season due to injury but was All-Big East and All-American (honorable mention) in 2012. Unfortunately it was announced this morning that Taylor Morgan (Freshman, Middle Blocker), the 80th recruit in the nation, will miss this season due to an injury.

Guess what, these women have spirit and a chip on thier shoulders. Don't believe me, check out this video that Santana and the Tapp sisters (they are twins) made.

You can read about the making of this video here.

Off Season Preparation

Have you ever been to Asia? Well the Gophers have, and several members spent a lot of time in Asia this year. To start things off, the whole team took their NCAA approved once in four years trip this year to Japan. Jason Gonzalez of the Star Tribune recently wrote a nice piece on how the players bonded together during this trip. Below is are some video highlights of their trip.

You can read more about this trip in my Gopher Volleyball Spring Update article from April 2nd.

After the semester was over, several Gophers made national teams that travel both in the Europe and Asia. Paige Tapp played for the USA World University Team that played in South Korea in July. Hannah Tapp, Molly Lohman and Sarah Wilhite traveled to China to play with the Collegiate National Team while Alyssa Goehner was on the Big Ten Foreign Tour that visited Croatia, Solvenia, and Italy. Goehner and Lohman were originally scheduled to travel to New Orleans, LA, to train and compete on the United States Collegiate Team but Lohman was a late add to the CNT and Goehner dropped out of the USCT when offered to tour Europe on the Big Ten squad.

With all of this extra experience, will the Gophers be ready to get back to the NCAA tournament. I hope so but their schedule does them no favors.

2015 Schedule

Despite that Minnesota is ranked #31 in the preseason Coaches Poll with 78 points, this is going to be a tough season for the Gophers this year; they really get no breaks in terms of schedule. They play a lot of great teams as you can see below (all rankings shown below are from the preseason coaches poll):

  • #1 team twice (away/home)
  • #2 team once (away)
  • #5 (tied) team twice (away/home)
  • #5 team once (away)
  • #7 team once (neutral)
  • #8 team once (home)
  • #14 team twice (away/home)
  • #19 team (home)
  • #27 team (home/away)
  • #30 team (neutral)
  • #37 team (home).

So not easy. You can see the full schedule below or check out the interactive schedule/results page.

2015 Minnesota Volleyball Schedule

2015 Minnesota Volleyball Schedule

Despite that there is a reason to be hopeful, the fact that the Gophers only lost 2 players to graduation and all of the off season experience. Will that be enough? It's hard to tell right now.

Social Media & Other Information

Additional Videos

Gopher Volleyball: Program Support

Gopher Volleyball: Facilities

Also check out the Marcus Fuller's TOUT page (@GophersNow) for several videos on the Volleyball team (and football of course).