The Gopher Volleyball team announced their 2017 schedule on Tuesday. The highlights include a non-conference game at NCAA Runner-up Texas, matchups against ACC powers Louisville and North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in Madison, and a Big Ten schedule that features games against seven teams that made the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
The Gophers begin the season in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge which this season will be played in Madison. The Gophers will take on Louisville and North Carolina for the third consecutive season. The Tar Heels were the #7 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament last season.
Minnesota then heads to the road for the last two weekends of non-conference action. First Minnesota travels to Austin, Texas for matches against Denver, and two NCAA Tournament teams in Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and the anticipated matchup between the Gophers and Longhorns. The following weekend Minnesota will travel to Boise for matches against Boise State, Oregon State, and Idaho State.
The Gophers will start the Big Ten regular season the following weekend when the Michigan schools come to the Pav. The schedule immediately becomes tough as Minnesota heads on the road for four matches, two of which are at Nebraska and Wisconsin who were two of the top five ranked teams in the NCAA a year ago. The rest of the Big Ten season follows keyed by a return trip to Minneapolis by the Badgers, and the season finale at home against perennial powerhouse Penn State.
The Gophers do catch a bit of a break in the Big Ten schedule as Minnesota will only play Nebraska, Penn State and Michigan State once each. Those three teams finished first, fourth and fifth in the Big Ten last year with Minnesota and Wisconsin coming in second and third.
The Gophers will look to return to the NCAA Final Four which will be held in Kansas City this December. Minnesota will need to overcome the loss of NCAA and Big Ten Player of the Year Sarah Wilhite, and All-Americans Hannah and Paige Tapp. However, Minnesota returns All-American setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Big Ten Freshman of the Year Alexis Hart, and will add the fourth ranked recruiting class in the nation according to prepvolleyball.com
Several of the Gophers incoming freshmen including the #5 recruit in the nation and Florida High School Player of the Year Stephanie Samedy and the #16 recruit in the nation in Brooklyn Park’s Jasmyn Martin will be expected to make an impact immediately and fill some of the depth holes caused by the Gophers six senior graduates.