Only one name will be inscribed on each of the postseason volleyball awards announced Tuesday by the Big Ten. But when the Gophers congratulated their three winners — Daly Santana as the league’s player of the year, Samantha Seliger-Swenson as freshman of the year and Hugh McCutcheon as coach of the year — they all felt a sense of achievement.
Just as it took the work of many hands to win the program’s first Big Ten title since 2002, it required a full team commitment to allow three individuals to shine. Santana, a senior outside hitter, led the Big Ten with 494 kills and became the first Gophers player since Cassie Busse in 2003 to be named the league’s player of the year. Seliger-Swenson, a setter from Minnetonka, ranked second in the conference in assists per set (11.47) and started in all 30 matches.
The Gophers, who begin postseason play Friday as the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, also placed Santana, Seliger-Swenson and Hannah Tapp on the all-Big Ten team. Paige Tapp made honorable mention, and Seliger-Swenson was named to the all-freshman team.
“(The honors) are great,” Santana said. “Really, they’re awesome. But it goes back to this team. Those awards wouldn’t be possible without the help of every single person on this team.”
McCutcheon — who last week earned his 100th victory as Gophers coach — directed the team to an 18-2 record in Big Ten play, its best-ever conference mark. The Gophers were predicted to finish fifth in the league after going 9-11 in the Big Ten last season and missing the NCAA tournament field. They are 26-4 overall entering Friday’s first-round game against Jackson State at the Sports Pavilion.
Now 101-31 in four seasons as Gophers coach, McCutcheon spent little time reflecting on the honors before turning the team’s attention back to its NCAA tournament preparations.
“(The awards are) validation of a great season,” he said. “That’s nice, and we appreciate it. We also understand that’s over. That’s done. And we’re very much invested in the next part of our journey.”