Samedy, Rollins, Landfair power Gophers volleyball offense

Minnesota heads to Nebraska 8-0 and the production from its hitters has powered the team’s success.

Opposite+hitter+Stephanie+Samedy+spikes+the+ball+to+earn+a+point+for+the+Gophers+in+Maturi+Pavilion+on+Sunday%2C+Jan.+24.+The+Gophers+won+against+Michigan+State+Spartans+with+a+score+of+3-0.

Shannon Doyle

Opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy spikes the ball to earn a point for the Gophers in Maturi Pavilion on Sunday, Jan. 24. The Gophers won against Michigan State Spartans with a score of 3-0.

Brendan O'Brien

The Gophers volleyball team is off to a fast 8-0 start to the 2021 season, and one key reason is the team’s depth of talent.

Arguably Minnesota’s most talented position group is its hitters. Opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy holds down the right side of the net while Adanna Rollins and Taylor Landfair rotate through on the left.

“As the pins, [they] take the lion’s share of the swings. A lot of our transition opportunities are happening outside or on the right side,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “For them to attack at as good efficiency and effectiveness as they [have done] is a huge thing for us.”

Samedy has been a consistent force for the Gophers and rarely has taken a play off. In her senior season, she is averaging 4.29 kills per set, the highest rate in the Big Ten for anyone who has played at least nine sets. With 2021 being an unusual year, Samedy has focused on keeping her energy steady so that she plays at a high level each weekend.

Her steadiness showed recently in Minnesota’s first four matches against ranked opponents, averaging 4.74 kills per set against Purdue and Penn State and earning back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Week honors.

Rollins is another familiar face in the lineup for Gopher fans. She played well as a sophomore throughout the 2019 campaign but shined for Minnesota in the NCAA tournament, leading the team in kills and earning the most outstanding player of the Austin Region All-Tournament team. She has only led the team in kills once this season, but she is second on the team in digs in an important defensive role.

“She carries a big load for our team, and I don’t think many people understand the weight of being a sixth-row outside,” McCutcheon said of Rollins.

And then there is Landfair. Second on the team in kills, she came to Minnesota as the top-rated recruit in the country and has taken over in different spots this year. Every time someone asks him about her, McCutcheon says Landfair is a “uniquely talented” player who still has plenty of “appetite for growth.” Only a freshman, Landfair always smiles while playing, loving the game despite the unusual circumstances.

“I’m beyond excited to play because, at first, I didn’t really think this time would be able to come. I always have a smile on my face because deep down I love the teammates that I play with and the program that I’m a part of,” Landfair said.

Setter Melani Shaffmaster is also a newcomer to the Gophers squad and it is her job to get the ball to these three. At first, Shaffmaster dealt with nerves playing in her first college matches, but setting for Samedy, Rollins and Landfair has made all the difference for her.

“It’s so fun being able to set anyone, and they either kill the ball or keep it in play. All of our hitters are super mature and when the set is not there, they save it and that’s a really great quality that we’re growing in,” Shaffmaster said.

The Gophers will need this success from their hitters to continue into the next stretch of the season. After beating ranked opponents in consecutive weekends, Minnesota takes on No. 4 Nebraska this week on Feb. 19 and 21 in a matchup of top-five teams.