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Minnesota Volleyball: Big Ten Week 1 Preview

Gophers will hit the ground running taking on No. 4 Penn State in their first Big Ten match of the season.

Gophersports.com

Preseason ended on an unusual note as the Gophers cancelled their last game of the season due to high temperatures and humidity inside Maturi Pavilion Saturday night. The Gophers only match of the week was Thursday against Green Bay who they swept.

No. 7 Minnesota will open conference play at home; Wednesday night they’ll take on No. 4 Penn State at 8:00 P.M. on BTN. Saturday at 6:30 they’ll face off against Maryland.

The Gophers didn’t have too much trouble getting past the Phoenix on Thursday winning 25-18, 25-15, 25-22. Coach McCutcheon mixed up his lineups throughout the night but Minnesota held steady as they outhit and out-blocked Green Bay .248-.119 and 8-6.

Alexis Hart appears to have righted the ship leading Minnesota with 13 kills, hitting .440. Regan Pittman finished with nine kills, and six digs, hitting .421. Stephanie Samedy was solid in two sets of action posting seven kills and digs, hitting .500. Paulina Swider had four blocks in her only set to lead the Gophers. Samantha Seliger-Swenson finished with 33 assists and two aces. CC McGraw led the passers with 16 digs.

Minnesota (6-2) will not have the luxury of easing into conference play, right off the bat they’ll take on a young talented Penn State squad. Passing will be key as Minnesota will need to stay in system to beat Penn State’s block. Minnesota’s balance will also help keep Penn State’s blockers guessing as Alexis Hart has returned to form which also takes some pressure off Stephanie Samedy. Minnesota will also need to be serve more aggressively; currently the Gophers have the second lowest ace per set numbers in the Big Ten.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name , stats, (statistical rank nationally, in the Big Ten)
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. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw- 3.63 D/S (11), 0.33 SA/S

So. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy- 3.78 K/S (6), .257, 2.61 D/S, 0.96 B/S

Jr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan- 2.17 K/S, .374 (12), 1.52 B/S (10, 5)

Sr. 5’11 S 13 Samantha Seliger-Swenson- 10.85 A/S (30, 4), 2.56 D/S, 0.26 SA/S

Jr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 2.56 K/S, 0.83 B/S

Fr. 6’0 OH 20 Adanna Rollins- .290, 2.41 D/S, 0.26 SA/S

So. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman- 2.81 K/S, .420 (15, 3), 1.12 B/S

Penn State

Russ Rose is in his 40th season leading the Nittany Lions (9-1) and as the leader of the preeminent program in the nation he has the luxury of simply re-loading after the departure of a heralded senior class last season. Half of Penn State’s eight-member freshman class are already making themselves known. In particular, they have two outstanding freshman middle blockers, Serena Gray and Kaitlyn Hord, who are among the nation’s leading blockers and hitters as far as efficiency. Due in large part to Gray and Hord Penn State is the leading blocking team in the country with 3.37 per set.

While Penn State has been able to put up some great statistics they haven’t played many other top teams. Like Minnesota, they played in the Big Ten- Pac-12 Challenge where they swept Oregon and were swept by Stanford. Otherwise Penn State played lower caliber teams as they got their freshman acclimated to the college game.

Key Players

Jr. 5’5 DS 3 Kendall White- 4.87 D/S (4)

Sr. 6’1 OH 6 Nia Reed- 3.17 K/S, .279

Fr. 6’1 RS/S 9 Jonni Parker- 2.57 K/S .298, 0.33 SA/S

Fr. 6’2 MB 16 Serena Gray- 2.04 K/S, .382 (44, 10), 1.48 B/S (15, 7)

Sr. 6’0 S 21 Bryanna Weiskircher- 9.94 A/S (9), 0.39 SA/S (12)

Fr. 6’4 MB 23 Kaitlyn Hord- 2.22 K/S, .413 (21, 5), 1.52 B/S (11, 6)

Sr. 6’3 OH 43 Taylor Leath- 2.58 K/S, 2.16 D/S

Maryland

There has been a lot of turnover since last season for the Terps; Head Coach Steve Aird left for the Indiana job allowing his former assistant coach Adam Hughes to ascend to the head spot. Aird’s abrupt departure also triggered transfers; four contributors from last season, three hitters and their libero, transferred out of the program. The cupboard isn’t completely bare though, for the Hughes and the Terps, as Erika Pritchard is back and shoulders the brunt of the offensive load for Maryland. Thus far Maryland is 9-3 with losses to Air Force, South Carolina, and Princeton as they only faced two Power Five teams in preseason.

Key Players

So. 6’1 S 1 Nicole Alford- 10.3 A/S (7), 2.19 D/S

Fr. 6’3 MB 2 Rainelle Jones- .371 (15), 0.93 B/S

So. 6’3 OH 9 Erika Pritchard- 4.26 K/S (32, 3), .242, 2.72 D/S

Sr. 6’1 OH 12 Liz Twilley- 2.8 K/S, .274

Fr. 5’10 L 15 Allegra Rivas- 4.49 D/S (6)

So. 5’10 DS 17 Samantha Burgio- 2.6 D/S

So. 6’2 MB 23 Katie Myers- 1.12 B/S (15), 0.56 SA/S (18, 1)

AVCA Poll Week 4

  1. BYU (58)
  2. Stanford (6)
  3. Nebraska
  4. Penn State
  5. Texas
  6. Wisconsin
  7. Minnesota
  8. Illinois
  9. Pittsburgh
  10. Creighton

16. Purdue

18. Michigan

RV: Michigan State

Texas slipped from three to five after only picking up one set in their home-and-away losses to Stanford. Otherwise there weren’t any big upsets and major shuffling to the Top 25.

BYU leads the way as one of six remaining undefeated teams. They’re joined by Illinois, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Michigan, and Portland.