Some Gophers volleyball fans will be thinking ahead to December when they attend this weekend’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Target Center. The players, though, promise their minds will be fixed firmly on August during their season-opening matches against Florida State and North Carolina.
The fourth-ranked Gophers know they have a long ways to go if they want to return to Target Center for the Final Four in 16 weeks. Against the Seminoles on Friday and the Tar Heels on Saturday, coach Hugh McCutcheon expects to try a few different lineups as he sizes up a roster rich with young talent. While he counseled his players to keep a narrow focus — urging them not to “give too much of today to tomorrow’’ — he is eager to get a glimpse of the capabilities of a very deep team.
“Hopefully, we’ll be building on this pretty good spring and preseason and hitting the ground running,’’ McCutcheon said. “I’d like to get some lessons learned early. Let’s see where we’re at. I want to know as quickly as possible.’’
The Gophers return 12 letter winners and five starters from a team that went 28-6 last season and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. All three of last season’s All-America picks — Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Stephanie Samedy and Alexis Hart — are back, joined by fellow starters Regan Pittman and Jasmyn Martin. The newcomers include CC McGraw of Prior Lake, Minnesota’s Ms. Volleyball in 2017, and Adanna Rollins, last season’s Texas Player of the Year.
Seliger-Swenson said the Gophers have discussed how sweet it would be to end the season in a hometown Final Four, but their thoughts have turned to the daily actions that will get them there.
“That would obviously be a dream come true,’’ she said. “We’ll keep that in the back of our heads. But we’re not going to complete that goal in one day.
“We have to start here in August and take it day by day.’’