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Minnesota Volleyball: Michigan State and Michigan Preview

Gopher are back in the Pav this weekend to take on #13 Michigan State and #18 Michigan.

After two weeks on the road #2 Minnesota (21-4, 13-3) will be back in the friendly confines of the Sports Pavilion to take on Michigan State and Michigan. The Gophers are looking to start the final homestretch of the season with two wins.

Friday evening at 7:00 CT Minnesota will face Michigan State. Sunday afternoon at 1:00 CT the Gophers will play Michigan.

Key Players

class, position, #, name- stats, (statistical rank nationally, in the conference)
Postions: M- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, Opp- opposite hitter, DS- defensive specialist, L- libero, S- setter
Stats: K/S- kills/set, B/S- blocks/set, D/S- digs/set. .000- hitting percentage, A/S- assists/set SA/S- service aces/set

Sr. OH 8 Sarah Wilhite- 4.1 K/S (41, 2), .295, 2.47 D/S, 0.28 SA/S (14)

Sr. M 4 Paige Tapp- .279, 1.22 B/S (8)

Sr. M 7 Hannah Tapp- 2.91 K/S (14), .350 (10), 1.14 B/S (11)

So. S 11 Samantha Seliger-Swenson- 11.66 A/S (5, 1), .64 B/S, 2.24 D/S, 0.29 SA/S (12)

Jr. M 13 Molly Lohman- .378 (30, 4), 1.45 B/S (14, 2)

Jr. L 17 Dalianliz Rosado- 3.91 D/S (9)

Fr. OH 19 Alexis Hart- 2.88 K/S, .262

Michigan State Preview

Michigan State (23-5, 12-4) won the first matchup this season in five sets. Similarly, Penn State beat Minnesota in five sets, then came to the Pav and got swept. This might be a repeat of that. Minnesota will back in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks and the team is playing really well.

MSU could still give Minnesota fits with their tough serving, size, and balance. The Spartans are the best serving team in the conference, 2.08 aces per set, and second best in the country. They have four servers who rank in the top 15 in the conference, based on aces per set. The Gophers did well in the first match surrendering only eight aces over five sets. Michigan State has a big frontline; all the hitters and the setter, except one hitter, are 6’2 or taller, topping out at 6’6. Their shortest, at 5’10, however is their kill leader. Additionally every hitter for the Spartans averages 2+ kills per set.

Key Players

Jr. OH 2 Autumn Bailey- 3.29 K/S (9), 2.63 D/S (15), 0.31 SA/S (9)

Sr. MB/Opp 6 Allyssah Fitterer- 2.11 K/S, .392 (22, 2) .65 B/S

Jr. L 10 Abby Monson*- 3.2 D/S (11)

Sr. OH 11 Chloe Reinig- 2.79 K/S, 0.9 B/S

Jr. S 12 Rachel Minarick- 10.37 A/S (7), 0.39 SA/S (2)

Jr. OH/Opp 13 Brooke Kranda- 2.10 K/S, 0.61 SA/S (4, 1)

Jr. MB 17 Alyssa Garvelink- 2.43 K/S, .360 (7), 1.41 B/S (20, 4)

Jr. OH 18 Holly Toliver- 2.08 D/S, 0.35 SA/S (3)

* Monson is a native of Lakeville, MN.

Michigan Preview

Michigan (21-7, 10-6) has been inconsistent as of late. After they gave Penn State their first loss in conference play they turned around lost to Purdue and IU. They also had to go four sets with Northwestern. The Wolverines just dropped a four setter to Michigan State in East Lansing. It is hard to tell what Michigan team you’ll get, but they are only 4-5 on the road. None of the four were upset wins so this seems like another opportunity for a Gopher sweep.

Different from most teams, Michigan’s kill leader is not their outside hitter, it is their middle blocker/opposite. If Minnesota can serve aggressive and keep them out of system it will be even harder for them to set her.

Key Players

Jr. MB 1 Claire Kieffer-Wright- 2.18 K/S, .275, .98 B/S

Fr. S 9 MacKenzi Welsh- 10.44 A/S (8), 2.24 D/S

So. L 10 Jenna Lerg- 4.19 D/S (3)

Jr. Opp 13 Katherine Mahlke- .252

Sr. MB/Opp 17 Abby Cole*- 3.16 K/S (11), .330 (14), 1.09 B/S (14)

So. OH 18 Carly Skjodt- 2.05 K/S

Sr. OH 44 Kelly Murphy- 2.5 K/S, 0.26 SA/S (15)

Reserve Ally Davis has a pretty incredible story. She missed Michigan’s run to the Final Four in 2012 because she donated stem cells for her sister’s cancer treatment. She also has overcome an ACL injury during her time at Michigan.

* At the end of the volleyball season, the 6’5 Cole will join Michigan’s Women’s Basketball team playing this year and next.

Big Ten Standings

Nebraska could clinch a share of the regular season title this weekend win a win over Iowa. It seems highly likely they would, they just destroyed Penn State, at least for two sets of the match, and they swept Iowa when they hosted them at the Devaney Center. That said, Carver-Hawkeye arena is a goofy volleyball venue and Iowa is upstart team. They’ve only lost three times at home this season. They lost to Butler in three sets, Minnesota in five, and Wisconsin in three. But we shouldn’t get too excited, Iowa had to go four sets with Rutgers Wednesday night. Feel free though to cheer for Iowa to beat Nebraska.

Minnesota is technically still in the running for the conference title, but the Huskers have an easier end to the season and will likely win it outright. Starting tonight with the match against Iowa, then they face Minnesota, and they end their season at home against Michigan. Even if Iowa would pull off the upset I don’t see them losing to Michigan on senior night.

AVCA Rankings

Top 5

  1. Nebraska
  2. Minnesota
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Kansas
  5. Florida

Big Ten teams:

13. Michigan State

15. Penn State

18. Michigan

24. Ohio State

Receiving votes- Purdue

The Big Ten still has a stranglehold on the top three but are down from a season high of nine teams in the top 25 to only seven. The next closest conference is the Pac-12 with six teams.

RPI Standings

Top 5

  1. Texas
  2. Nebraska
  3. Wisconsin
  4. Minnesota
  5. Florida

Big Ten Teams:

11. Michigan State

15. Michigan

21. Purdue

25. Penn State

29. Ohio State

48. Indiana

50. Illinois

60. Iowa

113. Maryland

147. Northwestern

190. Rutgers

To demonstrate how messed up the RPI is, Texas lost last week to Iowa State who comes in at 30 in this week’s RPI, yet the Longhorns rose from 2nd to 1st. Wisconsin didn’t lose but they dropped from 1st to 3rd, although having to go five sets with #147 Northwestern was probably a factor. Nebraska who didn’t lose, rose from 3rd to 2nd, but two wins apparently are not better than a win and a loss from Texas who is 2-2 in the last two weeks; the Huskers haven’t loss since the first of October. Meanwhile, Minnesota stayed at four.

Not a big deal for teams at the top but it can hurt teams hoping for an at-large bid, as RPI is the selection committee’s seemingly favorite metric to use when deciding at-large bids. Although, there still are implications for the top four seeds, as it could be the difference between hosting the first four rounds of the tournament and going into a hostile environment for the third and fourth rounds.