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Minnesota Volleyball: Season Preview

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The Gophers hope their season will end where its starting, the Target Center, home of the 2018 National Championship.

Gophersports.com

Minnesota has been successful under McCutcheon but they haven’t broken through yet and made it to the National Championship. This year the pressure is on to send Samantha Seliger-Swenson and company out on a high note and since Minnesota hosts the National Championship.

Non-Conference Preview

RV Florida State

The Seminoles were picked by ACC coaches to finish third this season up three spots from their 2017 finish. The Noles are led by junior, outside hitter Payton Caffrey and sophomore, middle blocker Taryn Knuth.

North Carolina

North Carolina hasn’t rebounded from the 2016 season and has seen numerous departures since then. This season the Tar Heels were tabbed to finish sixth in the ACC.

North Dakota State

North Dakota State fell into a tie for sixth with Purdue Fort Wayne in the Summitt League preseason poll. Two Bison made the League’s Preseason “Players to Watch” list, senior, outside hitter McKenzie Burke, and sophomore, middle blocker Bella Lein.

Georgia Southern

The Eagles are picked to finish last in the Sun Belt East.

Arkansas

The Razorbacks will look to hold their own in the SEC this season without the heavy arm of Victoria Pilar the All-SEC performer who averaged nearly 5.5 kills per set last season. They’re picked to finish seventh this season, one spot lower than last season.

#18 Oregon

Strong recruiting has buoyed Oregon to the top of the Pac-12. They’re picked to finish third in the Pac-12 as they look to replace two hitters from last season. Two key hitters who are back, who were named to the Preseason All-Pac-12 team, are junior middle blocker Ronika Stone and senior outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide.

#1 Stanford

The reigning Pac-12 Champs and 2016 National Champions, Stanford Cardinal were picked to defend their conference title this season. Last season’s AVCA National Player of the Year Kathryn Plummer and her junior classmates, Pac-12 Setter of Year, Jenna Gray, Pac-12 Libero of the Year, Morgan Hentz, and middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris will look to lead the Cardinal back to the national championship.

Green Bay

The Phoenix were picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Horizon League, fourth, where they finished last season. Green Bay is young this season with only five upperclassmen.

Kansas State

The Wildcats will look to rebound from last in the Big 12 this season. All but one starter is back for the Wildcats as they’ll look to live up preseason poll which put them at fourth in the conference.

Conference Preview

There’s a youth movement all across the Big Ten as ten of the fourteen schools boast four or more freshman. Penn State has brought in eight freshman to replace their heralded senior class from last season. Many programs also have large sophomore classes. Only Indiana has six underclassmen, everyone else has seven or more. Also of note, Northwestern has no seniors and Wisconsin boasts only one on their squad.

Nebraska looks to be in good position to defend their title even with a roster of mostly new faces. They’ve added talented freshman setter Nicklin Hames and middle blocker Callie Schwarzenbach to replace last season’s seniors. They also scored big getting transfer, outside hitter, Lexi Sun, from Texas; Sun was the Big 12 Freshman of Year last season.

Minnesota is in the mix for the conference and national title as they have been for the last handful of seasons so also are Penn State and Wisconsin. After falling to seventh last season the Badgers will be back at the top. A handful of players who are coming off redshirts, most notably, Molly Haggerty, will give the Badgers more offensive depth and firepower. While Penn State is certainly a young squad, but they added a valuable veteran in All-American Taylor Leath from North Carolina.

Projected Lineup

OH1 Alexis Hart

M1 Regan Pittman

RS1 Stephanie Samedy

OH2 Jazmyn Martin

M2 Taylor Morgan

S Samantha Seliger-Swenson

L CC McGraw

DS Lauren Barnes, Adanna Rollins

Like last season the OH2 spot will likely be fluid. Transfer Claire Sheehan or Rollins could see action on the left pin should Martin struggle. The second middle blocker spot also could see changes. Otherwise, the rest of the roster is pretty set. One question though will be whether Alexis Hart plays all six rotations or not.

B1G Coaches Poll

Nebraska was picked by the conference coaches to win the conference this year. The rest of the top five was rounded out by Wisconsin, Minnesota, Penn State, and Illinois.

The coaches also selected a Preseason All-Big Ten team including seven unanimous selections. Minnesota was the only program with three selections two of which were unanimous, Stephanie Samedy and Samantha Seliger-Swenson. Their fellow unanimous selections were Jordyn Poulter, Illinois; Carly Skojdt, Michigan; Mikaela Foecke, Nebraska; Sherridan Atkinson, Purdue; and Dana Rettke, Wisconsin. Alexis Hart also made the Preseason All-Big Ten team.

AVCA Poll

  1. Stanford (43)
  2. Nebraska (20)
  3. Texas
  4. Minnesota
  5. Kentucky
  6. Penn State
  7. Florida (1)
  8. BYU
  9. Wisconsin
  10. USC

12. Illinois

22. Michigan State

23. Purdue

RV: Michigan

The Gophers start their season Friday night at the Target Center against Florida State at 7:00. They’ll face North Carolina at 7:00 on Saturday; this match will air on BTN.