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Minnesota Volleyball Preview: Conference Opening Weekend

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The No. 1 Gophers carry a perfect record into conference play. This weekend they’ll face No. 20 Michigan and Michigan State.

Gophersports.com

Minnesota (11-01) wrapped up non-conference play with a trio of wins out in Boise to remain undefeated. The Gophers start a front-loaded conference slate with a home stand against Michigan and Michigan State. Friday evening at 7:00 Minnesota will face Michigan. Sunday at noon they’ll take on Michigan State on ESPN.

A heads up if you are going to the match against Michigan you can bring a sealed water bottle with you.

Boise State Classic Recap

Minnesota struggled a little in two of their matches in Boise. In the first match against Oregon State they need an extra set to the get the win as they committed some uncharacteristic errors. Against the host Broncos, Minnesota squandered a two set lead as the Boise State offense came alive in sets three and four. The Gophers fought them off in the final set winning 15-12. Minnesota had no trouble sweeping Idaho State as a slew of different players saw the floor.

Big Ten Honors

Stalwarts Samantha Seliger-Swenson and Stephanie Samedy received honors from the conference for their play last weekend. Seliger-Swenson was named the conference Setter of the Week, the second such honor for her this season. Over the weekend she posted 11.58 assists per set, including a 59 assist effort against Boise State. With her running the offense the team hit .288 over the three matches. Samedy shares this week’s Big Ten Freshman of the Week with Iowa’s Gabrielle Orr. Samedy averaged 4.67 kills per set over the weekend hitting .322 to go with 29 digs and five blocks. Against Boise State she had a season-high 26 kills and 12 digs to complete the double-double.

Weekend Preview

Minnesota

The Gophers were not as sharp last weekend as they were against Texas. It seems unlikely though that those issues would persist. Even if they would, the team showed they could still get the job done when things aren’t going necessarily according to plan.

The OH2 spot will be important to watch this weekend and through the whole conference schedule. Sydney Kleinman stepped in made solid contributions when Jasmyn Martin was struggling. This will likely be a recurring thing for Minnesota. Neither has quite shown they are consistently good enough to hold down the spot every match.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name , stats, (statistical rank nationally, in conference)
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- 4.55 K/S (18, 1), 2.79 D/S, 0.66 B/S

Jr. 5’11 S 11 Samantha Seliger-Swenson- 12.26 A/S (2, 1), 2.5 D/S, 0.42 SA/S (5)

Sr. 6’3 MB 13 Molly Lohman- .371 (15), 1.19 B/S (7), 0.28 SA/S

Sr. 5’9 L 17 Dalianliz Rosado- 4.61 D/S (4), 0.26 SA/S

So. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 3.05 K/S, .264

Rs Fr. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman- 2.29 K/S, .375 (13), 1.24 B/S (6)

Michigan Preview

Before the season, many thought Michigan State would break up the top four but it's looking more and more likely that Michigan could do it. The Wolverines are 10-2 coming into the matchup. Both losses came on the road against respectable teams; first week of the season Michigan fell to vote-getting USC in four sets, and two weeks ago they were swept by No. 25 Colorado State. Michigan and Minnesota have faced one team in common. Although, it's not a very good indicator of anything as the team in question was Idaho State who both teams swept. Michigan has a mostly veteran squad. They’re led by two pin hitters Carly Skjodt and Adeja Lambert. They can capitalize on their opponents mistakes but otherwise they don’t have the talent to over power a team like Minnesota. If the Gophers can stay in system they won’t have a problem.

Key Players

Sr. 6’1 MB 1 Claire Kieffer-Wright- 2.64 K/S, .342, .92 B/S, 0.31 SA/S

So. 6’1 S 9 MacKenzi Welsh- 10.44 A/S (37, 8), 0.81 B/S, 0.25 SA/S

Jr. 5’6 L 10 Jenna Lerg- 4.03 D/S (9)

Sr. 6’2 OH 11 Adeja Lambert- 3.1 K/S, .305, 2.36 D/S

Sr. 6’2 Opp 13 Katherine Mahlke- 2.63 K/S .257

So. 6’1 OH 15 Sydney Wetterstrom- .323

So. 6’3 MB 16 Cori Crocker- 2.1 K/S, .382 (11), 1.18 B/S (12)

Jr. 6’1 OH 18 Carly Skjodt- 3.23 K/S (14), .244, 2.49 D/S, 0.28 SA/S

Michigan State Preview

The Spartans (7-2) have not quite performed as expected thus far. They lost two hitters from last season but it looked like they should still move forward and improve but that hasn't been the case. They’ve lost twice on the road first to Georgia Tech in four sets and then were swept by Notre Dame. They missed a chance for a signature upset since Hurricane Irma forced the cancellation of a tournament at No. 3 Florida.

Michigan State still could turn out to be a great team; one thing they do very well is serve. The Spartans lead the conference with 1.82 service aces per set, 10th best in the country. Even the serves teams do get up they likely won’t always be to target and thus they can’t run their offense. Minnesota has good passers and Seliger-Swenson is phenomenal at running the offense from anywhere on the floor which certainly helps. Gopher hitters will have to be smart though when they are out of system, MSU has a big block, third best in the conference, 3.05 blocks per set.

Key Players

Sr. 5’10 OH 2 Autumn Bailey- 2.85 K/S, 239, 3.48 D/S (13)

Fr. 5’6 DS 4 Jayme Cox- 2.74 D/S

Sr. 6’4 MB 5 Megan Tompkins- 1.07 B/S

Sr. 5’5 L 10 Abby Monson*- 4.29 D/S (6)

Sr. 6’2 S 12 Rachel Minarick- 9.91 A/S (11), 2.68 D/S 0.64 SA/S (4,1)

Sr. 6’6 OH/Opp 13 Brooke Kranda- 2.88 K/S, .258, 1.19 B/S (8), 0.35 SA/S (11)

Sr. 6’4 MB 17 Alyssa Garvelink- 2.79 K/S, .391 (43, 7), 1.89 B/S (3, 2)

Sr. 6’2 OH 18 Holly Toliver- 3.07 K/S, 2.08 D/S, 0.48 SA/S (34,3)

* Monson attended nearby Lakeville North

Conference Schedule Preview

Minnesota will be tested over the first half of conference play then kind of coast to the season finale against Penn State. The Gophers face Wisconsin twice, Nebraska, and a surging Purdue squad in addition the two squads from Michigan over the course of the first 10 matches. Over the back half, only two of their opponents are currently ranked No. 13 Purdue and No. 2 Penn State.

This is a crucial weekend for Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State. All four teams are looking to start conference play on a positive note. Another big match-up this weekend will be Penn State at Nebraska Friday evening.

Strength of Schedule

To this point in the season Minnesota has played the 27th toughest schedule.

AVCA Rankings

  1. Minnesota (40)
  2. Penn State (13)
  3. Florida (10)
  4. Stanford (1)
  5. Wisconsin
  6. Texas
  7. Washington
  8. Oregon
  9. BYU
  10. Kentucky

(first-place votes)

Other ranked Big Ten teams: #13 Purdue, #14 Nebraska, and #20 Michigan. Michigan State and Maryland received votes.

Michigan State and Ohio State have not taken any bad losses but have been more or less pushed out by some mid-majors who got some upsets although both had losses to a Notre Dame squad that is just outside the top 25. Northern Iowa comes in at 22 after beating Nebraska in Omaha. Colorado State stayed at 22 after first making the rankings with a win over Michigan. Wichita State got a win over Creighton which helped them crack into the top 25. Colorado got the last spot in the top 25 after beating CSU and since their only loss has been to Penn State.

Since the shake-up in the top five two weeks ago things have remained the same all the way through the top seven. BYU seemed to be the biggest benefactor of those upsets rising from 14 to 9 with the help of a win over No. 16 Utah.

Non-Conference Opponent Update

Texas has not loss since falling to Minnesota. North Carolina’s struggles have not ended as they have fallen completely out of the rankings but could potentially rebound in conference play.

National Outlook

There are six other undefeated teams in addition to the Gophers. Two are Big Ten counterparts, Wisconsin and Penn State. Outside the conference Florida, James Madison, Miami (FL), and Towson are the other undefeated teams. Towson and James Madison are both in the Colonial conference so one of them will eventually lose. Miami’s perfect run will likely come to an end shortly. They’re picked to finish 6th in the ACC. Their run may have even ended last weekend; they were slated to play James Madison but it was cancelled due to Hurricane Irma. Florida, though, could run the table in the SEC.