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Minnesota Volleyball: Final Four Preview

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Back in the Final Four for the first time since 2016, the Gophers face a familiar foe, Stanford.

NCAA Division 1 Women’s Volleyball Semifinals (NCAA Photos Archive) Photo by Jay LaPrete/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Gophers (27-5) earned the program’s first win over the Cardinal back in September as they beat Stanford (28-4) in four sets at Penn State for the Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge. Thursday night they’ll square off with a lot more on the line.

The National Semifinals are Thursday evening. Number one-seed Baylor and Four-seed Wisconsin will play first in Pittsburgh at 6:00 PM CT. Number seven-seed Minnesota and three-seed Stanford will follow at 8:30 CT. Both matches will air on ESPN. The National Championship will be Saturday at 7:00 CT on ESPN2.

The Gophers are looking to make their second trip to the National Championship and Stanford is pursuing their third title in four years and ninth NCAA Tournament championship in program history. The two teams have met three times in the NCAA Tournament, twice in the final weekend. En route to their 2016 National Championship Stanford beat Minnesota in the Final Four in four sets. In 2004, when Minnesota made it to the National Championship they lost to Stanford in straight sets.

In the September matchup three of the four sets were two-point decisions; 27-25, 27-25, 23-25, 25-20. The Gophers showed some incredible resiliency closing set two on a 5-1 run having saved two set points. Minnesota was able to outhit the Cardinal .247-.185. Both teams were led by 20+ kill efforts, Stephanie Samedy for Minnesota and Kathryn Plummer for Stanford. Blocking-wise it was nearly even, however, Minneota had the 13-12 edge. Stanford had the serving advantage 6-2 on aces.

This season both teams suffered injuries. Stanford missed Kathryn Plummer for a month of the season and still went on to win the Pac-12. Kylie Miller missed 13 matches for Minnesota this season and CC McGraw also missed a couple as they battled to a second-place finish in the Big Ten.

Match Preview

Minnesota elevated their serving game last weekend and it carried them to third their Final Four appearance in five seasons and sixth for the program. Mid-zone serves that the bottom fell out scored points for the Gophers routinely. Through the season the Gophers have not been an exceptionally tough serving team. They do all right from the service line but don’t overwhelm teams. They’ve been able to beat teams by extending rallies and playing smart, low-error volleyball. Minnesota will have to have one of their best serving nights to force Stanford out of system in hopes of keeping the Cardinal offense in check. Easier said than done though as the Cardinal allow just 0.68 aces per set.

Stanford, like the other three teams in the Final Four, is stacked offensively. Kathryn Plummer’s five kills per set lead the way but they have a complete lineup as all their hitters can score. The Gophers have some firepower but are not on the same level. Minnesota relies on a balanced, quick attack. While Stephanie Samedy can get five kills a set that is just not how they play. Passing is even more important to the Gopher’s quick offense. If Minnesota can run quick sets and get good blocking matchups they can score but even that may not be enough.

This season we’ve seen what happens when Minnesota can’t force great offensive teams out of system. Not quite the same roster composition as Stanford, Wisconsin lit the Gophers up for 82 kills in a four-set match. The Gophers hit .284 and had four hitters with double digit kills that match but it was not enough.

Key Players

Minnesota

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. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw*- 4.05 D/S, 0.25 SA/S

Jr.. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy*- 3.04 K/S, .236, 2.63 D/S, 0.95 B/S

Sr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan!- .356, 1.26 B/S (43)

Sr. 5’11 S 15 Kylie Miller- 10.18 A/S, 2.4 D/S, 0.31 SA/S

Sr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart!- 3.02 K/S, .268

So. 6’0 OH 20 Adanna Rollins- 2.72 K/S, .231, 2.88 D/S

Jr. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman*- 2.19 K/S, .356, 1.43 B/S (13)

*First Team All-Big Ten

!Second Team All-Big Ten

Minnesota Team Stats

Teams Kills/Set Hitting Percentage Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Teams Kills/Set Hitting Percentage Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Minnnesota 13.75 .266 (25) 12.79 1.2 16.12 2.87 (8)
Opponents 13.23 .176 12.5 1.29 15.5 2.0
https://gophersports.com/sports/womens-volleyball/stats

Stanford

Sr. 6’1 S 1 Jenna Gray#- 11.54 A/S (8), 0.25 SA/S

Sr. 6’6 OH 2 Kathryn Plummer- 5.01 K/S (6), .323, 0.28 SA/S

So. 6’3 MB 3 Holly Campbell- .290, 1.26 B/S (41)

Sr. 5’9 L 9 Morgan Hentz#- 4.94 D/S (38)

Jr. 5’9 DS 11 Kate Formico- 2.19 D/S, 0.25 SA/S

Sr. 6’6 RS 12 Audriana Fitzmorris#- 2.89 K/S, .312, 1.01 B/S

Sr. 6’3 MB 15 Madeleine Gates#- 2.21 K/S, .332, 1.42 B/S (14)

# All Pac-12 Team

Stanford Team Stats

Teams Kills/Set Hitting Percentage Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Teams Kills/Set Hitting Percentage Assists/Set Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Stanford 14.72 (3) .299 (4) 13.88 (3) 1.39 15.13 2.87 (9)
Opponents 11.99 .177 11.37 0.68 13.77 1.9
https://gostanford.com/sports/womens-volleyball/stats/2019

Other Pac-12 Honors

Jenna Gray- Setter of the Year

Morgan Hentz- Libero of the Year

Honorable Mention- Meghan McClure and Kendall Kipp

Pac-12 All Freshman Team- Kendall Kipp

All-Tournament Honors

Adanna Rollins was the Most Outstanding Player of the Austin Region. Teammates Alexis Hart and Kylie Miller were also named to the All-Tournament team.