A well-rounded team along with an offensive machine brings success to Gopher volleyball

No. 3 Minnesota are Big Ten champions, riding the program’s longest winning streak in history.

Senior Samantha Seliger-Swenson prepares to serve the ball at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 9. The Gophers swept Indiana 3 sets to none.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Senior Samantha Seliger-Swenson prepares to serve the ball at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 9. The Gophers swept Indiana 3 sets to none.

by David Mullen

Setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson has been through a lot with Minnesota.

The three-time All-American Seliger-Swenson has been to two Final Fours and has been a part of over 100 victories for the Gophers’ volleyball program. 

This season, however, the senior setter says the current team has more depth and is more well-balanced than any of her previous teams.

“I would say just the depth that we have at each position is probably the best it’s ever been,” Seliger-Swenson said. “I’ve played with some great players in the past, but I think this year we are just so even and consistent on the board with each position.” 

Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon echoed Seliger-Swenson’s thoughts and said this year’s team has more depth than any he’s coached while at Minnesota. 

No. 3 Minnesota is riding a program best: a 19-game winning streak that began over two months ago. Throughout the streak, the Gophers have beaten six Big Ten programs that are ranked in the AVCA Top 25.

They beat No. 8 Wisconsin and No. 6 Nebraska twice. McCutcheon said more success is brought to the team when different players step up.

“We have a lot of belief in this group, knowing it’s not down to one or two people every night,” McCutcheon said after a match against Michigan State on Oct. 26. “Different nights different people can have success.” 

During the historic run, five different players have led the team in total kills. Opposite hitter Adanna Rollins has led in kills five times during the run, including a 20-kill performance against Nebraska on Oct. 20. 

“[The hitters] definitely make my job really easy,” Seliger-Swenson said after upsetting Nebraska on Oct. 6. “I just have so much confidence in them … knowing I have so many people to go to … builds a lot of confidence for us.”

Middle blocker Taylor Morgan, a primarily defensive player who has added hitting to her repertoire, said the team does a great job of being prepared.

“We just get up and loaded fast so [Seliger-Swenson] can see where to put the ball. And we all do a really good job of drawing the block,” Morgan said on Oct. 27 after beating Michigan. She added that their offense is a “force to be reckoned with.”

Seliger-Swenson for the season is averaging 40.12 assists per match as of Nov. 20, and she’s played a major role in the team’s offensive distribution.

“Her sets are so good, and she’s so good at holding her position and spreading the offense around,” Rollins said on Sept. 29, after defeating Indiana on the road. 

For the Gophers, their well-balanced attack was evident on Saturday when they beat Ohio State in five sets on the road. 

“It’s so impactful that so many hitters can put the ball down, we have people who can dig, people who can set … it really shows as a team that we are really all-around players,” middle blocker Regan Pittman said after winning the Big Ten Saturday.

Although the Gophers go into the final weekend of the regular season as Big Ten champions, the mindset of the offensive machine has not changed.

“We’re gearing towards the NCAA tournament and the end of the Big Ten season, so we’re moving onto the next phase of our season,” Seliger-Swenson said.