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Minnesota Volleyball: Regional Preview

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Minnesota hosts this weekend’s NCAA Regional Semifinals and Final. The Gophers will face the Oregon Ducks while Nebraska and Kentucky will square off in the other semi-final.

Jon Johnston

One last weekend at the Pav for the Gophers (27-3, 19-1) this season as they host the regional round Friday and Saturday. Minnesota will face Oregon (22-10, 13-7) who beat them 3-1 earlier this season.

No. 7 Nebraska and No. 10 Kentucky will play the first match Friday at 1:00 on ESPNU. No. 2 Minnesota and No. 15 Oregon will follow at 3:30 on ESPN3. The winners will play Saturday at 5:00 on ESPNU for a spot in the Final Four.

AVCA All Region Honors

Six Gophers were recognized by the AVCA as All-North Region honorees. Samantha Seliger-Swenson was the North Region’s Player of the Year. Adanna Rollins became the fourth consecutive Gopher to win the North Region Freshman of the Year following, Stephanie Samedy, Alexis Hart and Seliger-Swenson. Samedy, Hart, Taylor Morgan, and Regan Pittman were also All-North Region. Stanford is the only other school to have six athletes named All-Region. Hugh McCutcheon was the region’s Coach of the Year. AVCA All-Americans are selected from All-Region honorees.

Tournament Outlook

All top four seeds advanced and host this weekend. No. 4 BYU who seemed the most ripe for an upset didn’t even drop as set as the dispatched Stony Brook and Utah. The Cougars will face last season’s National Runner-Up Florida in the round of 16 and No. 5 Texas will face Michigan who upset No. 12 Pittsburgh in five sets, in the other semi-final in Provo. Florida advanced to the Sweet 16 after beating Florida Gulf Coast who upset No. 13 UCF in the first round.

In the Stanford region Washington swept No. 9 Creighton to advance to face No. 8 Penn State. While the host No. 1 Cardinal will play No. 16 Washington State who they’ve already beat twice this season. No. 3 Illinois will take on No. 14 Marquette while San Diego who swept No. 11 USC to advance to the Sweet Sixteen will face No. 6 Wisconsin.

The Minnesota region was the only one where the seeds held up as all advanced.

Weekend Preview

Minnesota’s dominant showing against South Carolina last weekend was welcome reassurance that this team is ready for a long tournament run. The previous night they had trouble finishing off a plucky Bryant squad and over the last few weeks of conference play the only convincing win came over Rutgers despite playing a handful of teams who finished in the bottom half of the league. The Gophers will need to be just as sharp this weekend.

The previous match with Oregon was an offensive showdown as both teams hit nearly .300 and each set was decided by the two point minimum. Minnesota is balanced offensively while Oregon will rely heavily on outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide and middle blocker Ronika Stone; Vander Weide has taken nearly 500 more attempts than the closest Duck. Minnesota will also have an advantage at the service line as they serve and pass better than the Ducks. As long as that holds true and the Gophers keep getting the ball to their middle blockers to keep that balanced attack they should be able to come out on the right end this time.

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

So. 5’6 DS 2 Lauren Barnes- 2.57 D/S, 0.3 SA/S

Fr. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw- 3.98 D/S

So. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy- 3.45 K/S, .289, 2.98 D/S, 0.81 B/S

Jr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan- 2.44 K/S, .381 (23), 1.09 B/S

Sr. 5’11 S 13 Samantha Seliger-Swenson- 11.68 A/S (9), 2.46 D/S, 0.36 SA/S

Jr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 2.94 K/S, .250

Fr. 6’0 OH 20 Adanna Rollins- 2.66 K/S, .252, 2.62 D/S

So. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman- 2.57 K/S, .407 (7), 1.16 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 14.79 (4) .300 (5) 13.63 (8) 1.32 16.55 2.49
Opponents 12.95 .183 12.51 0.82 15.17 1.65

Oregon

Oregon advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after besting New Mexico State in four and then outlasting Baylor in five sets. This year is Oregon’s eighth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and 24th overall. The program’s best finish was in 2012 when they lost in the National Championship to Texas. With the win earlier this season the Ducks have a 3-2 advantage with the Gophers in the all-time series; before this season they hadn’t played since 2011.

Oregon has a high powered offense but they get their kills much differently than the Gophers. As mentioned before Vander Weide is the Ducks go-to hitter and they’ll look to get the ball to Stone as often as possible. Besides those two and Willow Johnson their lineup is in flux which also contributes to more errors. The Ducks though have one of the most aggressive, offensively-minded setters in the country. Among the top 15 setters in assists per set, August Raskie is the only one to average over a kill per set. Minnesota, specifically their block, will have to discplined and track Raskie when she’s in the front row. Defensively, the Ducks boast one of the best defenders in freshman libero Brooke Nuneviller

Key Players

So. 5’9 DS/OH 3 Brooke Van Sickle- 2.31 D/S, 0.29 SA/S

Jr. 6’3 RS 4 Willow Johnson$- 2.73 K/S, .311

Fr. 5’11 L 5 Brooke Nuneviller#$- 4.83 D/S, 0.26 SA/S

Jr. 6’2 MB 7 Ronika Stone*- 2.95 K/S, .336, 1.21 B/S

Sr. 6’3 8 Lindsey Vander Weide*- 3.52 K/S, 2.94 D/S, 0.27 SA/S

Sr. 6’0 S/RS 16 August Raskie$- 1.12 K/S, .321, 11.71 A/S (8), 2.45 D/S

Oregon 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
Oregon 14.51 (7) .264 (18) 13.61 (9) 1.29 16.1 2.43
Opponents 12.71 0.207 11.96 1.1 15.32 1.8

*All-Pac-12

# Pac-12 All-Freshman

$ All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention

Also of note, Willow Johnson is the daughter of baseball Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.