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Gopher Volleyball Upset at Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Minnesota split their season-opening matches sweeping host North Carolina and getting swept by Florida State. We’ll know more about No. 8 Minnesota after their matches this week against No. 3 Texas and No. 7 Florida.

Life after Samantha Seliger-Swenson is proving harder than expected. The 2019 season got off the rocky start as Minnesota (1-1) followed up a three-set win over North Carolina with a three-set loss to Florida State.

This week will be a big test for the Gophers as they travel to No. 3 Texas (2-0) and host No. 7 Florida (2-0).

Big Ten/ACC Challenge Recap

Against the Tar Heels, the offense was humming as they won 25-16, 28-26, 25-17. The Gophers out hit UNC .330-.125 including a .519 effort in the opening set.

Stephanie Samedy, Morgan Taylor and Alexis Hart carried most of the offensive load tallying 15, 12, and nine kills respectively; Taylor was error-less hitting .706.

Taylor Morgan had it going from the start scoring four of Minnesota’s first six points at they went up 6-2 early in set one. A later 5-1 run fueled by Tar Heel errors put Minnesota in front 12-6.

Set two saw 19 ties and nine lead changes in the back and forth affair. Minnesota got the first set point opportunity, 24-22, after a Tar Heel service error and block by Samedy and Regan Pittman. The Gophers failed to take advantage as they couldn’t get the ensuing serve in play. After Rollins got blocked, Samedy put one away to get Minnesota another set point. North Carolina put the next two points away to get their first set point. A Tar Heel block error gave Minnesota new life which was followed with another error. Alexis Hart made good on the third set point closing the set 28-26.

The final set was error-filled but the Gophers were able to put the ball away with more frequency outdoing UNC .175- (-.024) in hitting efficiency. A quick five-point run early in the set gave the Gophers a comfortable margin, 8-4, as they went on to win the set 25-17.

Samedy finished with a match-high 14 digs for a double-double. Kylie Miller put up 41 assists. Regan Pittman had a match-high six blocks and Rachel Kilkelly led all players with two aces.

Several flaws were exposed in the three-set loss to Florida State. Minnesota struggled to serve, pass, block, and simply play as a team. The Gophers finished the match with over a complete set’s worth of points in just hitting and service errors, 28. Ex-Gopher Jasmyn Martin also did damage posting 16 kills and hitting .500 to lead the Seminoles as Minnesota fell 25-17, 26-24, 25-21.

Minnesota was outhit .182-.250 as only one Gopher, Alexis Hart, finished above .200; 14 kills .270 hitting percentage. Coach Hugh McCutcheon tried everyone too, Airi Miyabe, Claire Sheehan, and freshman middle blockers Ellie Husemann and Shea Rubright saw action which was was a shock to many to see both on the floor this season.

Minnesota got down early in set one before rallying to draw within one, 10-9. Florida State answered with a four-point run, three kills and a block, which gave them a comfortable margin they kept down the stretch. Martin came out on fire posting seven kills in the opening set with no errors. Her and the Seminoles abused the Gopher block which was leaving big holes open on the pins.

The Gophers had their chance in set two, but squandered it; Minnesota had four set points which went to waste. After seemingly being on the right end of a back-and-forth set Minnesota got a kill from Stephanie Samedy which put Minnesota in front 24-20. The Seminoles answered with three straight kills then Minnesota really fell apart committing a hitting error on their final set point and getting blocked on the final two points of the set, losing 26-24.

Minnesota didn’t look any better in the final set as they lost 25-21; fittingly enough the final point was a Gopher hitting error. Minnesota’s struggles persisted as they couldn’t pass to target to stay in system. At one point four consecutive Minnesota servers had only got two out of six serves in play. Also, the Seminoles kept abusing the weak Gopher block.

Stephanie Samedy finished with another double-double 13 kills and 11 digs. CC McGraw posted 13 digs and Kylie Miller finished with 36 assists.

Minnesota had eight service errors and no aces while surrendering five. They also were out-blocked 10-5.

Wisconsin won both their matches in three sets.

Week Preview

Wednesday at 7:00 CT you can watch the Gophers take on the Longhorns on FS1. Saturday’s match with Florida will be 7:00 CT, available on BTN+.

As hard as it is to play when things aren’t going right the lack of cohesiveness and leadership compounded things as lineups were mixed up in an attempt to find one that worked against FSU.The challenge for the Gophers is to of course fix and eliminate the mistakes, but also figure out who they are without Samantha Seliger-Swenson. With Seliger-Swenson they could rely on their balance and fast offense. Now though, that is much harder to do. Seliger-Swenson also was the unquestioned leader of the team. No one on this year’s team has ascended to that role and it shows. Playing poorly and losing to FSU is not the end of the world, but the fact it was a sweep is slightly alarming.

Top 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

So. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw- 3.83 D/S

Jr.. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy- 4.67 K/S, .284, 4.17 D/S

Sr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan- 2.33 K/S, .478

Sr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 3.83 K/S, .309

Sr. 5’11 S 15 Kylie Miller- 12.83 A/S

Fr. 5’9 DS 6 Rachel Kilkelly- 3.33 D/S, 0.33 SA/S

Texas

The Texas offense is off and running even without Brionne Butler. Freshman Skylar Fields, the top recruit in the class of 2019, arrived on the scene this weekend averaging 3.63 kills per set and .520 hitting percentage as Texas picked up four-set wins over Northern Iowa and USC. One lowlight for Texas was Micaya White only hitting .189. Besides the offensive firepower, the Longhorns have plenty of size across the frontline and block really well. If the FSU match is any indication the Gophers may really struggle. It’s still not clear whether Brionne Butler will be in action against the Gophers, she was reported as day-to-day last weekend.

The key for the Gopher will be winning the serve-pass battle. Minnesota has to either clean up the service errors or really dial it up and take the good with bad, high errors and aces. Texas’ passing can be shaky at times and Logan Eggleston is an easy target if she’s used in all six rotations.

Top Players

Sr. 6’1 OH 1 Micaya White- 3.75 K/S, 2.63 D/S

So. 5’8 S 2 Jhenna Gabriel- 9.0 A/S, 2.75 D/S

Fr. 6’2 RS 5 Skylar Fields- 3.63 K/S, .520

Fr. 6’3 MB 7 Asjia O’Neal- .318, 1.0 B/S, .5 SA/S

So. 5’4 L 8 Sydney Petersen- 3.13 D/S

So. 6’2 OH 33 Logan Eggleston- 3.88 K/S, .324, 0.75 SA/S

Florida

Florida has depth and experience this season. They haven’t settled on one lineup, instead plugging in pieces to see what is their best combination. Like Texas, Florida has plenty of size although more extreme with a 6’8 middle blocker and 6’7 right side/setter. Passing will be key so the Gophers can stay in system. If Mary Wise does play her two bigs Minnesota can afford to be to go out of system to the outside hitter which is a no-win scenario.

Top Players

Sr. 6’8 MB 5 Rachael Kramer- 2.25 K/S, .389, 1.13 B/S

Sr. 5’6 14 Allie Gregory- 4.13 D/S

So. 6’3 OH 20 Thayer Hall- 4.63 K/S, 2.75 D/S

So. 6’0 S 21 Marlie Monserez- 9.75 A/S

AVCA Poll

  1. Stanford (63)
  2. Nebraska (1)
  3. Texas
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Illinois
  6. Penn State
  7. Florida
  8. Minnesota
  9. Oregon
  10. Pittsburgh

(first-place votes)

Other ranked Big Ten Teams: 14 Michigan, 18 Purdue, RV Iowa, and RV Maryland

The Gophers were not the only team that suffered an upset. BYU lost at home to then-No. 16 Marquette which snapped their home win streak which dated back to the 2017 season. Kentucky lost on the road to Utah. Washington State fell just outside the top 25 after being swept by Iowa. Hawai’i picked up two signature wins upsetting Washington and San Diego. Cal Poly fell out of the top 25 dropping all three of their matches, losing to Kentucky, Saint Mary’s, and Utah. Creighton fell after taking losses against Nebraska and Baylor.