Gone is the heralded senior class from last year yet Minnesota is predicted to be a contender again this season. After a second consecutive Final Four appearance and finishing third in the final poll last year the Gophers will begin their season ranked 4th in the AVCA rankings. The three other teams from last years Final Four, are also in the top five heading into the this season; Stanford, Texas, and Nebraska.
#1 Texas (24)
#2 Stanford (35)
#3 Washington (2)
#4 Minnesota (2)
(first place votes)
The Big Ten led all conferences with eight teams appearing in the preseason rankings trailed by the Pac-12 with six; #6 Penn State, #7 Wisconsin, #16 Michigan, #17 Michigan State, #21 Ohio State, and #25 Purdue.
Aside from conference foes, Minnesota will run into two other currently ranked teams during non-conference play, #1 Texas and #11 North Carolina. They’ll also face Boise State who received votes in this week’s poll.
This year’s team will feature a lot of fresh faces as Coach McCutcheon looks to replace three of last seasons top four scorers, one of which was the National Player of the Year, Sarah Wilhite. Junior All-American and Big Ten Setter of the Year Samantha Seliger-Swenson is back alongside All-American Honorable Mentions senior middle blocker Molly Lohman and sophomore outside Alexis Hart. Seniors Dalianliz Rosado, libero, and defensive specialist, Alyssa Goehner are back for the Gophers. They’ll be joined by the 4th ranked recruiting class. The class is led by the number four prospect in the country, 6’2 opposite, Stephanie Samedy. Fellow recruits Jazmyn Martin- 6’3 outside, and Sara Nielsen- 5’11 setter, were also ranked in the top 50 in the class of 2017. This also will be the first season of game competition for redshirt freshman Regan Pittman, 6’5 middle blocker, who was the 12th best prospect in the class of 2016.
The Gopher’s will begin their season August 25th in Madison as they take part in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. They’ll face #11 North Carolina and then Louisville the following day. You can check them out, however, before then at their open scrimmage on Saturday, August 19th at 3:00.