Seliger-Swenson sets up Gophers for promise

The junior leads the team in assists with 327.

Gophers junior Samantha Seliger-Swenson sets the ball on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in a match against Maryland in the Sports Pavillon.

Gophers junior Samantha Seliger-Swenson sets the ball on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 in a match against Maryland in the Sports Pavillon.

Henry Hughes

Junior Samantha Seliger-Swenson had to overcome early criticism from those at the NCAA level.

“I remember the talks about her, Big Ten, Big 12, and [other] Power Five conference coaches… people were kind of knocking her for being a little bit slow,” said Seliger-Swenson’s former club volleyball coach Jennifer Jacobs. “She hadn’t grown into her feet yet.”

Those early gameplay questions were answered when Seliger-Swenson came to Minnesota. She has become a First Team All-American and Big Ten Setter of the year as the No. 1 Gophers look to finish their final tournament on Sept. 15 and the non-conference undefeated.

“I think when she first got here she could set pretty well, and she could hit a good serve into the court, but some of the other parts of her game were lacking,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “Now, she’s becoming good at the net, she’s certainly taking good care of the back court as well.”

Born in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Seliger-Swenson was never a stranger to the Gophers’ volleyball culture, often attending volleyball matches when she was younger.

When it comes down to it, Seliger-Swenson’s playing style is described in a way that any setter hopes for — selfless.

“She just has a way of making the players around her better,” Jacobs said. “She keeps tabs on people that matter to her, and that’s the selflessness that comes out right there.”

In 276 career sets, Seliger-Swenson has recorded 3,252 assists, over halfway to Sharon Oesterling’s school record of 6,024 earned from 1986 to 1989. Oesterling is also second for most assists in a season with 1,725. Seliger-Swenson’s season-high total is 1,510.

The Gophers finish up their nonconference schedule this Thursday and Friday in Boise, Idaho. Seliger-Swenson had high praise for the team heading into the tournament.

“We’re pretty committed as a team,” Seliger-Swenson said. “We work hard on and off the court, [and] I think that it’s important to have steadiness across all aspects of our lives. We’re definitely pretty goofy off the court as well.”

For Seliger-Swenson after volleyball, the possibilities remain endless, Jacobs said.

“Honestly, I think [Seliger-Swenson] can do whatever she wants. I could see her going up the ranks through the USA pipeline. I could see her playing overseas. She’ll stay involved with volleyball for as long as I’m sure she’s able to, whether that’s playing or coaching.”