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Gopher Volleyball: Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge Preview

After an encouraging 1-1 week last week, the Gophers face their last big test of the preseason this weekend.

As frustrating as the loss to Texas was No.8 Minnesota showed they could compete with the top teams in the country. They followed it up with a sweep over a good Florida squad. This weekend though, Minnesota faces some familiar top-flight foes, No. 10 Oregon (2-1) and No. 1 Stanford in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at Penn State.

Friday at 5:00 CT on BTN+ the Gophers face Oregon. Saturday at 4:30 CT, also on BTN+, Minnesota gets a crack at mighty Stanford.

Weekend Preview

While Minnesota did look good against Florida they’ll have to be even better this weekend. Two glaring weaknesses for the Gophers are their serving and blocking. Offensively though, Minnesota might have to shift their philosophy in order to win this weekend. Last season Minnesota relied on their balance. This was easier to achieve since Samantha Seliger-Swenson could set pretty much anyone from anywhere which held the middle blocker, creating favorable matchups. It would not be fair to Kylie Miller to expect her to do all the things SSS did and so the Gophers must adjust. Alexis Hart and Stephanie Samedy can score with ease; they should get the lion’s share of the sets. That’s not to say ignore Adanna Rollis or Taylor Morgan but that they shouldn’t spread the ball around just to spread it around. Hart and Samedy should be the stars of the offense, don’t be too predictable but you have to get your point scorers opportunities.

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

Fr. 5’9 DS 6 Rachel Kilkelly- 3.83 D/S, 0.25 SA/S

So. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw- 3.58 D/S, 0.25 SA/S

Jr.. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy- 4.92 K/S (19), .273, 3.67 D/S

Sr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan- 2.25 K/S, .389

Sr. 5’11 S 15 Kylie Miller- 13.0 A/S (3), 2.17 D/S, 0.25 SA/S

Sr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 3.58 K/S, .300

So. 6’0 OH 20 Adanna Rollins- 2.83 K/S, 3.17 D/S

Oregon

Two of Minnesota’s four losses last season came at the hands of the Ducks. Most devastating was the season-ending loss in the region semi-final that included a marathon second set, 41-39. The Ducks graduated three starters and lost a handful of players to transfer from last year’s team. This year’s Ducks are young, three redshirt freshman and seven true freshmen, but they have two outstanding seniors and a do-it-all sophomore libero turned outside hitter who are leading them this season. On their trip east to Happy Valley Oregon stopped in Pittsburgh Wednesday night to face the No. 6 Panthers dropping the match in four sets.

This match could come down to Ronika Stone. Stone is one of the best slide attackers in the country and judging by Minnesota’s previous blocking performances, she is going to be able to feast on the slide attack. Oregon has nice pieces around her too. Willow Johnson, daughter of Baseball Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, can crush it and Brooke Nuneviller gives the Ducks two liberos on the floor at all times. Oregon’s athleticism could prove to be too much.

Key Players

Sr. 6’3 RS 4 Willow Johnson- 3.9 K/S, .366, 2.6 D/S, 0.3 SA/S

So. 5’11 L 5 Brooke Nuneviller- 2.7 K/S, 3.2 D/S

Sr. 6’2 MB 7 Ronika Stone- 3.6 K/S, .509 (14), 1.2 B/S

Fr. 5’6 L 10 Georgia Murphy- 2.8 D/S

Rs. Fr. 5’10 S 21 Kylie Robinson- 11.3 A/S (22), 0.5 SA/S

Rs. Fr. 6’4 MB 42 Karson Bacon- .321, 1.2 B/S

Stanford

The Cardinal seniors are looking for their third national championship and the early indications are that they will get it. Stanford swept Florida and fought off Texas in five sets last week. Kathryn Plummer has been on another level this season posting 21 kills against the Gators and 34 against the Longhorns. The Cardinal have been going to her early and often in part because the rest of the lineup has been struggling. The win against Texas though showed Stanford can win even if their only getting points from Plummer.

Key Players

Sr. 6’1 S 1 Jenna Gray- 11.64 A/S (7), 0.50 SA/S

Sr. 6’6 OH 2 Kathryn Plummer- 5.93 K/S (4), .451 (37)

So. 6’3 MB 3 Holly Campbell- .400, 1.15 B/S

Sr. 5’9 L 9 Morgan Hentz- 4.36 D/S

Jr. 5’9 DS 11 Kate Formico- 2.57 D/S, 0.43 SA/S

AVCA Poll Week 2

  1. Stanford (64)
  2. Nebraska
  3. Texas
  4. Penn State
  5. Baylor

(first-place votes)

Other ranked Big Ten teams: 8 Minnesota, 9 Wisconsin, 14 Illinois, 23 Purdue, and 24 Michigan.