This is what makes Gophers volleyball unique among sports attractions with a notable following in the Twin Cities: There is absolutely nothing to complain about.
It starts with the schedule. There is more fierce competition, top to bottom, in women’s volleyball than in any sport in the Big Ten. There is a 20-game conference schedule spread over 10 weeks.
Generally, the teams are home one weekend and on the road the next. There is no such thing as an easy week in Big Ten volleyball.
The Gophers’ tradition — previously with Mike Hebert, now with Hugh McCutcheon — is also to play a difficult nonconference schedule.
The depth of the Big Ten was demonstrated Wednesday, when Ohio State came to Minneapolis as the sixth-place team. The Buckeyes were tall, athletic and creative, and had the first-place Gophers on the ropes — up 2-0 in sets.
It remained a struggle for the Gophers into the third set, and then came the charge: Daly Santana, Sarah Wilhite and Hannah Tapp blasting away, freshman Samantha Seliger-Swenson delivering her variety of set-ups, and terrific defense from everyone.
The Gophers won the last three sets — guaranteeing a share of the Big Ten title. They clinched it outright with a four-set victory at Indiana on Saturday.
The appeal with volleyball goes beyond the level of competition and the abilities of the athletes. The atmosphere is terrific.
The Sports Pavilion was created after Gophers men’s hockey moved across the street to Mariucci Arena in 1993. The capacity is roughly 5,500. It was a sellout Wednesday, the fourth of the season.
The size of the arena is perfect. The ticket prices are modest. There’s a point to be won every 20 seconds.
Five thousand people cheering constantly in the mini-barn will make several times the noise of 8,000 actual bodies next door, looking at their watches as Richard Pitino’s outfit challenges Chicago State.
It’s easy to feel ripped off paying premium prices for Gophers football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey. A ticket buyer never will feel that way with Gophers volleyball.
PLUS THREE FROM PATRICK
Fabulous true freshmen for Gophers teams:
• Samantha Seliger-Swenson (volleyball). Enrolled early to practice with team in spring. Her work as setter has had as much to do with Gophers’ turnaround from 2014 as anything.
• Shannon Brooks (football). The running back from Atlanta went into season finale with 638 yards and seven TDs — four on runs between 38 and 75 yards.
• Sarah Potomak (hockey). A forward from Aldergrove, British Columbia, she had seven points in Friday’s blowout of MSU Mankato. She has a point in her first 15 college games.