When the Gophers found out Monday they had risen to the nation's No. 1 ranking, they allowed themselves a brief moment of pride.
"We kind of thought it was cool," right-side hitter Stephanie Samedy said. "But we have to keep the right mind-set. It's still September."
They knew they couldn't afford to feel satisfied, especially given the task ahead of them. This weekend, the Gophers head to the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Stanford, Calif., where they will play No. 18 Oregon on Friday and No. 4 Stanford on Sunday.
Those matches will be their first this season against ranked opponents and their first on the road.
The Gophers have lost only one set on their way to a 5-0 record. As coach Hugh McCutcheon continues to assess a deep roster, he praised his team's grasp of fundamentals, noting it is farther along in its development than it was at this point last season. That's a good sign, he said, for a group still in the early stages of its learning curve.
"We have lots of players that can contribute in lots of ways, which has been real positive," said McCutcheon, who has given playing time to 15 of the team's 18 players in the first five matches. "There is a lot of refinement that has to happen. But some of the foundational pieces are already pretty solid, which is a nice place to start.
"The serve-and-pass part of the game seems to be pretty steady, and there are some things we can do that we weren't able to do a year ago. We're not firing on all cylinders yet, but I think there's some good stuff happening."
Some of the early bright spots for the Gophers include team defense and the play of redshirt sophomore Regan Pittman. The Gophers are ranked second in the nation with 3.41 blocks per set and have outblocked opponents 54.5-26.
McCutcheon said Pittman, the Gophers' tallest player at 6-5, "is starting to become a force at the net." She hit .524 with 24 kills and 11 blocks in last weekend's Diet Coke Classic and was named the event's most valuable player.
Stanford (4-1) began the season ranked No. 1, but it dropped this week following a loss to then-No. 9 Brigham Young.
The Gophers are 0-8 against the Cardinal, including a 3-1 loss in the 2016 NCAA semifinals. Oregon is 3-2, with both losses coming to top-10 teams.