The Swenson-Seligers climbed into a recreation vehicle on Wednesday evening and started the 775-mile drive to Columbus, Ohio. They were planning to arrive in the home of the Buckeyes around noon on Thursday.
That would be six hours before the Gophers and Stanford get underway in the first semifinal of the NCAA Division I volleyball. The hope is the result will be the same as in 2012, when Samantha Seliger-Swenson was in Columbus with her Northern Lights club team for National 17 Open tournament.
“The previous Christmas, Grandma Swenson asked Sam what she wanted for gifts,’’ said Vicki Seliger, Sam’s mother. “Sam said she wanted two things: a set of headphones and a national championship.’’
Samantha received the Beats for Christmas and then Northern Lights won the national championship in Columbus. She was playing two years “up’’ from her age group, as she had all through youth competition, and was named the MVP for the tournament.
There are six Gophers from that Northern Lights team: seniors Sarah Wilhite, Hannah Tapp, Paige Tapp and Erica Handley; junior Alyssa Goehner; and Seliger-Swenson, a sophomore.
On Wednesday, it was announced that Seliger-Swenson and Wilhite were named first-team All-Americas and Hannah Tapp was on the second team. Paige Tapp won the NCAA’s Senior Class Award for the most outstanding senior student in Division I volleyball.
Vicki and her husband, Erik Swenson, and the rest of the extended family weren’t in Columbus to share the honor with their daughter. They were getting a late start with the recreation vehicle, packed as it was with 12 people.
Samantha’s younger sisters, twins Stella and Olivia, 11, and Eva, 9, were in the party. So were the Swenson grandparents, the Tapp parents, Tracy and Amy, and other volleyball friends.
The Lee sisters, Taylor at Marquette and Tara, a junior at Hopkins High, had to be creative. Tara took a bus to Milwaukee on Wednesday afternoon and will ride with Taylor to Columbus.
There are two Lee sons, Tyler and Trevor, but they can’t make it. The Lees are Samantha’s cousins and have been raised over the past nine years with the Seliger-Swenson family.
There has never been such attention paid to Gophers volleyball as over the past month, yet this remains a quest for the volleyball community of family and friends. – the people who were coaching or sitting in folding chairs at 10-and-under summer tournaments.
I wrote a column for Thursday’s Star Tribune with analysis on Samantha’s game as a setter from Walt Weaver. He was a high school and club coach in the Twin Cities for decades. Vicki Seliger was a rival at Hopkins (where she continues to coach).
How close are these folks?
Weaver told me that he had known Samantha since she was born. Vicki confirmed this while talking on a cell phone on Wednesday night.
“I still have the bib with Samantha’s name on it that Walt and his wife gave us when she was a new born,’’ Vicki said.
You think you’re having a good time following this quest for a national championship?
Imagine an RV with two sets of parents, with grandparents, siblings and friends … headed across the Midwest to share together this moment.
"We got started late, 6 o'clock, but we're rolling now,'' Vicki Seliger said. "We'll be there. Go, Gophers.''