Tournament play preps Gophers for Big Ten

Minnesota will play in four tournaments before beginning conference play.

Rachel Timmerman

For many volleyball teams, the nonconference schedule offers easier wins before a tough league slate.

But Minnesota is preparing for its Big Ten season by playing its third tournament in as many weeks starting on Friday.

 “[The teams] are different, but they’re good ways to prepare,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

Junior outside hitter Daly Santana said tournament play definitely helps the team get ready for the Big Ten season.

“A lot of us are really excited to get into the season,” Santana said. “We’re waiting for it in a good way.”

Tournaments allow the team a chance to get accustomed to playing together.

With the opportunity to make rotation changes during games, McCutcheon said experience for alternate players is important.

The Gophers have played in tournaments against teams that are currently unranked, but Santana said the team prepares the same way for any game, no matter the opponent.

 “Anytime we step on the court, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side,” Santana said.

Freshman libero Dalianliz Rosado said nonconference play has prepared her for the upcoming conference games.

“I have been working really hard and I keep working hard,” she said.

Hard work is something the Gophers plan to continue in the weeks before conference matches.

“Our ability to be consistent in terms of our preparation and our execution is really critical,” McCutcheon said.

The Gophers are currently 4-1 on the season in tournament play — their lone loss was against Louisville in their second match of the season.

Following the Diet Coke Classic this weekend, the Gophers will travel to Toledo, Ohio, for their final tournament of the season.

Though it might not be Big Ten play, the Gophers are still ready to compete.

“If you’re a team that decides they’re gonna play good against a good team and bad against a bad team, then you’re setting yourself up for failure,” McCutcheon said.