Gophers volleyball players travel to Colorado with national team ambitions

Minnesota has 13 players competing in Colorado Springs, Colorado in hopes of making the United States Collegiate National Team.

Sophomore opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy eyes the ball as she serves during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Gophers beat Northwestern in all three sets.

Ellen Schmidt

Sophomore opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy eyes the ball as she serves during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Gophers beat Northwestern in all three sets.

David Mullen

Although the college volleyball season is seven months away, many of the Gophers volleyball team are back in action this weekend in hopes of being selected to the USA National Collegiate Team.

Thirteen members of the Minnesota volleyball team headed out west to Colorado Springs, Colorado for the annual open tryout for the USA Collegiate team, which was the most of any school in the country.

“People that come here want to be good in college, but they also aspire to be good beyond,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. 

Some of the Gophers trying out include nearly every starter from last season, such as opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy, outside hitters Alexis Hart and Adanna Rollins, middle blockers Taylor Morgan and Regan Pittman and libero C.C. McGraw 

This is not the first tryout for many of the players. Samedy made the team last year and said she is excited about the opportunity for her and her teammates. 

“[This] shows how committed to the process we are,” Samedy said. “It gives us a chance to check our progress and the opportunity to see if we’re able to apply outside of the gym in a different environment.”

Along with the 13 Gophers players, there will be around 200 other athletes competing for the chance to be apart of the US Collegiate Team, and although the number is high, Hart said she is ready to go up against a competitive field.

“It’s a great opportunity to play a different style of volleyball and gain things from other schools,” Hart said. 

Many of the players hope to one day represent the United States on the national team. There are currently multiple former Gophers on the team, including Sarah Wilhite Parsons, Tori Dixon, Hannah Tapp, Paige Tapp and Lauren Gibbemeyer. Making the collegiate team it is potentially one step closer to that goal.

“I have goals and plans after college and I’d love to play for USA,” Hart said. “But just to see the type of systems they run and their type of culture … so just getting a taste of USA volleyball.”

Even though there are 200-plus try-out attendees, the Gophers’ competitors believe they bring something unique.

“Our team is really good at bringing a lot of energy,” Hart said. “I think we bring a lot of good culture … and with our skills and mechanics that we have, I don’t know, it just seems very consistent.” 

Samedy and Hart said having some of their teammates with them helps ease their nerves.

“Not everyone will be able to have [13] girls with them, so it’s pretty cool to have my teammates with me,” Hart said. 

Whether or not they make the team, the players said they value the opportunity to learn. 

“They get a chance to play against different players which I think is go along with being thrown into a different environments where they have to adapt,” McCutcheon said. “I think being able to adapt and show a little resiliency are all really valuable for any athlete.”

Minnesota volleyball will return to action later this month when the team takes a trip to Japan, but regular season action will come back in August.