While the core of the starting lineup will remain the same there was plenty of roster turnover for Hugh’s Gophers leading into this season. All-American setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson has graduated and a handful of bench players and key rotation player have transferred out of the program. To counter the losses four freshmen were signed and two transfers brought in.
In this preview, we’ll look at the roster and projected starting lineup. Check back Thursday for a breakdown of the schedule, the rest of the Big Ten, AVCA poll, and rundown of National Championship contenders; the Gophers were ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll released last week.
DS Sophie Beckley- Graduation
S Samantha Seliger-Swenson Graduation
MB Kayla Buford- Graduation
DS Lauren Barnes- Transferred to Wisconsin
OH Jasmyn Martin- Transferred to Florida State (indoor)
S Sara Nielsen- Transferred to Kansas
OH Alice Zeimann- Transferred to Florida State (beach)
MB Rebecca Rendahl- Transferred to Fresno State
MB Paulina Swider- ?????
The most glaring departure is the loss of Seliger-Swenson. Seliger-Swenson was tremendous at running the fast-paced Gopher offense and could make in-system sets off passes that pulled her off the net. She also was a threat from the service line.
The unforeseen loss though was Barnes joining the rival Badgers. Barnes claims her departure was not because she was beat out by CC McGraw for the libero jersey. In some ways that holds up as she joins perhaps an even more formidable backcourt contingent in Madison. As with Seliger-Swenson, Barnes was one the Gopher’s top servers.
As for the rest of the transfers they’re likely pursuing opportunities where they may get to see more action as last year’s team only saw eight players see regular action.
6’1 Jr. OH Claire Sheehan
6’2 Jr. RS Stephanie Samedy
6’0 Sr. OH Alexis Hart
6’0 So. OH Adanna Rollins
6’0 Sr. MB Taylor Morgan
6’5 Jr. MB Regan Pittman
5’9 So. S Bayley McMenimen
5’9 So. L CC McGraw
5’8 Sr. DS Lauren Litzau
*Returning Starters are bolded
For most of the returners their roles are pretty much set. There is a chance for Litzau to crack the rotation passing for Hart. Otherwise, there may be competition for one of the outside hitter positions with transfer Airi Miyabe should Rollins or Hart struggle.
6’5 Fr. MB/RS Shea Rubright- Yakima, WA- Incoming freshman
5’9 Fr. DS Rachel Kilkelly- Shakopee, MN- Incoming freshman
6’4 Fr. MB Ellie Husemann- Eagan, MN- Incoming freshman
5’8 Fr. S Tamara Dolonga- Varazdin, Croatia- Incoming freshman
5’11 Sr. S Kylie Miller- Rancho Cucamonga, CA, UCLA- Incoming transfer
6’0 Jr. OH Airi Miyabe- Osaka, Japan, College of Southern Idaho- Incoming transfer
In order to address their most pressing need, setter, Hugh and the staff brought in a transfer to bridge the gap between Seliger-Swenson and class of 2020 recruit 6’4 setter Melani Shaffmaster. Miller was used differently in each of her three seasons in Westwood; in a 6-2 offense her freshman year, sparingly the next season, and in a 5-1 as the starting setter last season. She was a heralded recruit coming out of high school, eleventh in her class, and a finalist for California’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
Miyabe will reinforce the Gopher’s depth at the pins and backcourt. Miyabe led College of Southern Idaho to the NJCAA championships twice, winning it this past season. For her efforts, she was recognized as the Player of the Year by the NJCAA and AVCA. During last season’s campaign, she averaged 4.28 kills per set and 2.86 digs per set while hitting .302. She also has been competing and training with the Japanese National Team in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Another need for the Gophers is passers. Incoming freshman Kilkelly could be called on to help fill the gap left in the rotation by the departure of Barnes.
Husemann and Rubright will likely see limited action as there also is the possibility of a redshirt.
OH 1- Hart
OH 2- Rollins
Key Reserves: Miyabe and Kilkelly
How successful the Gophers will be this season will have a lot to do with Miller. The chemistry she develops with her hitters and how quickly that comes together will be a big factor in whether they defend their Big Ten title and whether the senior class gets back to a Final Four. Miyabe could also be a difference-makers a passer and or hitter. While Hugh typically doesn’t change the lineup mid-match Miyabe makes the lineup a little more fluid as he can plug her in wherever necessary. Don’t be surprised if she does crack the starting lineup.