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Minnesota Volleyball: NCAA Tournament Preview

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Gophers earned the No. 7 seed and host this weekend. For second year in a row Minnesota faces North Dakota in first round.

Gophersports.com

Minnesota (26-5, 15-5) is back in the Pav for perhaps the last time this season. The Gophers will take on North Dakota in the first round of this year’s tournament. North Dakota (30-7, 12-4) earned an automatic qualifier bid after winning the Big Sky conference tournament. Louisville and Northern Iowa will square off in the other match.

Gophers face North Dakota at 7:00 CT or a half hour after the first match, whichever is latest; both first round matches will air on BTN+ for free. Louisville and Northern Iowa will play the first match at 4:30.

This is the Gophers 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance where they have gone 47-21. Minnesota has made the last two Final Fours, but their best finish remains the 2004 runner-up finish. Last season Minnesota lost to eventual national champ, Stanford in four sets.

Minnesota had a strong resume that earned them a seed, due in part to tough non-conference schedule that the Gophers went undefeated against and playing in the Big Ten. Minnesota was ranked 8th in the last coaches poll and 7th last week’s RPI standings. The Gophers were 7-3 against AVCA top 25 teams although the win over then No. 11 North Carolina doesn’t mean much as they went 14-14 finishing 9th in the ACC. When you include teams receiving votes in the weekly poll Minnesota was 7-5. Minnesota was 14-5 against the RPI top 50, 5-4 against top 25. The Gophers played the 11th toughest schedule this season.

Match Preview

Minnesota had an up and down finish to the season. Some weaknesses were exposed and capitalized on. The Gophers, as with most teams, do not have a consistent second left side hitter. Jasmyn Martin has done well enough hitting put teams have been able to attack her in serve receive and go on runs. Another weakness for the Gophers has been defending and scoring against big, physical middles. All three teams Minnesota lost to in the last three weeks have a tough middle blocker; Purdue: Danielle Cuttino, Illinois: Ali Bastianelli, Penn State: Haleigh Washington. Molly Lohman has never been a big scorer but she is reliable. Minnesota has to get Regan Pittman on track and keep her involved in the offense. Minnesota can rely on the arms of Stephanie Samedy and Alexis Hart, Samantha Seliger-Swenson’s setting prowess and their great team defense this weekend, but next weekend they’ll need bigger contributions from the supporting cast.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name , stats, (statistical rank nationally)
Positions: MB- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, RS- right side 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

Fr. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy!F- 4.14 K/S (31), .312, 2.87 D/S, 0.71 B/S

Jr. 5’11 S 11 Samantha Seliger-Swenson!- 12.24 A/S (2), 2.52 D/S, 0.30 SA/S

Sr. 6’3 MB 13 Molly Lohman- .380 (31), 1.34 B/S (28), 0.30 SA/S

Sr. 5’9 L 17 Dalianliz Rosado- 4.31 D/S

So. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart!- 3.73 K/S, .281

Rs Fr. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman- 2.23 K/S, .343, 0.95 B/S

Minnesota Team Stats

Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Minnesota 14.59 (8) .278 (12) 13.70 (12) 1.30 16.09 2.46 (46)
Opponents 13.34 .200 12.58 0.88 14.54 2.08

! All-Big Ten

F All-Freshman

North Dakota Preview

The Fighting Hawks are making their second NCAA Tournament appearance after making their debut last season. North Dakota and Minnesota have only faced each other four times with Gophers winning all four matches. Last year the teams met at this same point in the season with Minnesota came away with the sweep. North Dakota earned the Big Sky’s automatic qualifier bid after avenging two regular season losses in route to a tourney championship. The Fighting Hawks were 70th in the final RPI standings. They only faced four teams in the top 100; 82nd Ole Miss, 16th Cal Poly, 78th Sacramento State, and 13th Iowa state, going 2-3. Then No. 22 Iowa State was the only ranked team UND faced this season losing in straight sets, although Cal Poly has since moved into the top 25.. North Dakota’s strength of schedule was 215th. The Gophers and UND had one common opponent this season, Idaho State, who they both swept.

North Dakota is led by senior, middle blocker Faith Dooley has dominated her peers in the Big Sky. Dooley had a nice match last season going against Lohman and the Tapp twins, 11 kills, .429. Dooley will likely have a good night but it does not look good for anyone else. Minnesota serves tough which will likely force UND to play out of system often, neutralizing Dooley and allowing the Gopher block to key in on pin hitters.

Key Players

Sr. 5’10 OH/DS 1 Teo Tepavac- 3.61 D/S, 0.28 SA/S

Sr. 5’11 S 4 Sydney Griffin*- 10.67 A/S (49), 2.68 D/S, 0.68 B/S

So. 6’0 L 5 Alivia Fraase- 4.15 D/S

Sr. 5’10 OH 7 Tamara Merseli- 2.70 K/S, 3.83 D/S

Jr. 6’1 MB 12 Jordan Vail*- 2.50 K/S, .346, 1.04 B/S

Sr. 6’3 MB 13 Faith Dooley*- 3.07 K/S, .364, 1.44 B/S (18)

So. 6’2 RS/OH 18 Ashley Brueggeman- 2.67 K/S, 0.81 B/S

North Dakota Team Stats

Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Comparison Kills/Set Hitting % Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
North Dakota 13.48 .234 12.66 0.98 18.41 (10) 2.69 (23)
Opponents 12.93 .160 12.09 0.79 17.86 1.76

*First-Team All-Big Sky

Half the UND roster hails from Minnesota: Sydney Griffin- Marshall, Ellie Veldman- Prior Lake, Lydia Rutten- New York Mills, Sidney Mattson- Grand Rapids, Paige and Ashley Brueggeman and Tamika Brekke- Eden Prairie, Kelly Wahl- Centerville, and Amelia Johnson- Roseau. Assistant Coach Mia Tabberson also has ties to the Gophers, graduating in 2013 she was on Coach McCutcheon’s first Gopher team.

Rest of the Field

The top seeded 16 teams are as follows: #1 Penn State, #2 Florida, #3 Stanford, #4 Kentucky, #5 Nebraska, #6 Texas, #7 Minnesota, #8 Washington, #9 Creighton, #10 USC, #11 Utah, #12 Baylor, #13 BYU, #14 Iowa State, #15 UCLA, and #16 Wichita State

The Pac-12 led with nine teams in the tournament and the Big Ten was second with eight teams making the field: #1 Penn State, # 5 Nebraska, #7 Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin.

To this point No. 11 Utah, Purdue, No. 1 Florida, and Miami have advanced to the second round.

Big Ten Honors

Alexis Hart, Stephanie Samedy, and Samantha Seliger-Swenson were named to the All-Big Ten team this season. Samedy and Seliger-Swenson were unanimous choices. Samedy was also named to the All-Freshman team. Seliger-Swenson was unseated as Setter of the Year by Nebraska’s Kelly Hunter. Molly Lohman was Minnesota’s sportsmanship honoree.

Samedy of Seliger-Swenson were two of nine unanimous All-Big Ten selections: Autumn Bailey- Michigan State, Danielle Cuttino and Sherridan Atkinson- Purdue, Mikaela Foecke and Kelly Hunter- Nebraska, Simone Lee and Haleigh Washington- Penn State, and Dana Rettke- Wisconsin. Lee was the Player of the Year while teammate Washington was recognized as the Defensive Player of the Year. Hunter was named as Setter of Year and Rettke was the Freshman of the Year. John Cook of Nebraska and Russ Rose from Penn State split Coach of Year honors as Cook was the pick of his colleagues and media members selected Rose.

Final Big Ten Standings

AVCA Rankings

  1. Penn State (64)
  2. Texas
  3. Florida
  4. Stanford
  5. Nebraska

(First-place votes)

Big Ten teams: #8 Minnesota, #11 Wisconsin, #12 Michigan State, #16 Purdue, RV Michigan, RV Illinois

RPI

  1. Penn State
  2. Florida
  3. Kentucky
  4. Texas
  5. Stanford