FORT WORTH, Texas — The No. 5 ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers are getting set to open the 51st season of Gophers volleyball this weekend in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. The ‘U’ will open up against No. 16 Baylor on Friday before taking on the host team, TCU, on Saturday night. Minnesota went 1-1 in last year’s challenge in Madison, Wis., losing in four sets to Baylor before sweeping TCU.
LAST TIME OUT
• Minnesota ended its season with a three set loss to eventual national champion Wisconsin, 3-0, in the Regional Finals. The final score was 25-18, 26-24, 25-23. Airi Miyabe led the ‘U’ with 13 kills.
• Before that, the Gophers took down No. 5 Baylor in a thrilling five set battle in the Regional Semifinals. Minnesota trailed 2-1 before winning the fourth set, 25-23, and then taking set five, 15-10.
• Airi Miyabe led the way with 18 kills while Stephanie Samedy went for 16 kills and 16 digs in a workman-like effort. Jenna Wenaas also posted a double double with 13 kills and 14 digs. Minnesota advances to its fifth Regional Final appearance in 10 years under coach McCutcheon with the win.
• After winning a share of its first Big 12 title and making a Final Four run in 2019, Baylor made the Sweet 16 the past two years. They went 22-6 (14-2 Big 12) last year and earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
• The Bears are led by eighth-year head coach Ryan McGuyre. The rosters is paced by seniors Lauren Harrison and Kara McGhee, along with the highest-ranked recruit in program history, freshman Averi Carlson. Harrison and McGhee were named Preseason All-Big 12 on June 22, with Carlson named the program’s first Preseason Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
• Baylor has been voted to finish second in the 2022 Big 12 Preseason Coaches Poll, as announced by the league office in late June. They will need to replace All-Americans Yossiana Pressley and Avery Skinner, among others. They come into 2022 with a No. 16 ranking in the AVCA Preseason Poll.
• The Horned Frogs are led by eighth-year head coach Jill Kramer. She led TCU to consecutive NCAA Tournaments during her first couple years in Fort Worth in 2015/2016 and is looking to get her team back there for the first time in six seasons. TCU was picked to finish seventh in the 2022 Preseason Poll.
• Last year, the Horned Frogs went 8-18 (2-14 Big 12), taking down Kansas State and Okahoma in Big 12 play.
• Senior Julia Adams has been awarded Preseason All-Big 12 honors. Adams led the Horned Frogs with a career-best 285 kills last season, averaging over three kills per set (3.03) for the second season in a row.
MINNESOTA’S HISTORY VS. BAYLOR AND TCU
• Minnesota is 3-1 all-time against Baylor. The lone loss came in the 2021 season opener, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the then No. 10 Bears. Stephanie Samedy had a match-high 21 kills and 18 digs for Minnesota, while BU’s Yossiana Pressley went for 19 kills and 13 digs.
• Besides the two matches last season, Minnesota has played BU two other times. The first came in 1981, a 2-0 Gophers victory. The other came in the 2010 Diet Coke Classic, a 3-1 Gophers win. The two teams have never before met in postseason play.
• The Gophers are 3-0 all-time against TCU. They played last year in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge, with Minnesota taking a 3-0 victory. Taylor Landfair and Jenna Wenaas had 11 kills each while CC McGraw had 13 digs. The ‘U’ beat TCU two other times, in 2005 and 2008.
Gopher junior setter Melani Shaffmaster spoke with MNN sports director Mike Grimm about the upcoming season:
(info and photos courtesy of Gopher Sports)