Two ranked teams to test Gophers before conference play

The Gophers volleyball team has one more tournament to play before entering Big Ten conference matches next week.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers volleyball team has one more tournament to play before entering Big Ten conference matches next week.

And it’ll be “gnarly,” according to head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

The Golden Hurricane Classic hosted in Tulsa, Okla., will pit the No. 10 Gophers against unranked Tulsa, No. 19 Kansas State and No. 20 Dayton.

“It’s important that we ramp up the schedule a little bit,” McCutcheon said. “We’ll see how we deal with it. We’ll get into trouble I’m sure, which is OK.”

McCutcheon said the schedule this weekend is tough because of the competition and the tournament’s structure — Minnesota plays three matches in less than 30 hours.

The Gophers play Dayton first at 10 a.m. Friday and then Kansas State at 4:30 p.m. later that day. On Saturday, the Gophers will play the host Golden Hurricane at 2 p.m.

Playing two ranked teams consecutively will be a challenge, especially considering the teams’ records. Dayton is 7-2, losing only to No. 21 Ohio State and Western Kentucky, which received votes for a national ranking. Kansas State is 9-0.

However, McCutcheon said his team doesn’t differentiate between ranked and unranked, unbeaten or beaten.

“Every time we get on the court, we’re trying to play as consistently and as well as we can,” McCutcheon said. “We need to be able to do that independent of the quality of the opponent on the other side.”

Tulsa has a 7-4 record, while the Gophers are 7-1.

Senior outside hitter Katherine Harms said the Golden Hurricane Classic is a good way to gear up for conference play.

“Every preseason opportunity is a chance to get better going into conference,” Harms said. “And I think that this is a really good tournament for our last one. It gives us a little push, and we get to play some pretty good teams.”

The Big Ten conference named Harms its Player of the Week on Monday. Harms has had an outstanding season so far, leading her team in kills in all but three matches.

Senior outside hitter and middle blocker Brianna Haugen has been a reliable substitute for the Gophers this season, earning 10 kills in nine sets played. She said she loves Minnesota’s strategy of rotating players this preseason.

“It’s good for a team to have a lot of depth and to have people who can come in and make a difference.

“It doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or a senior … as long as you go out there and make a couple points for the team.”