MINNEAPOLIS, M.N. (KELO) — The USD volleyball team is set to play 12 seed, Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, December 3 at 7 p.m.
The match will air on ESPN+ or you can follow along with the action in a KELOLAND.com Live Blog.
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS
Minnesota owns a 20-8 record this season including a 7-7 record against ranked opponents.
The Golden Gophers have played well as of late. They’ve won eight of their past ten contests including wins over Nebraska, Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State, all of which are in the NCAA tournament. Their two losses in that stretch came to #6 Purdue and #4 Wisconsin who are both seeded in the tournament.
In those eight wins, the Golden Gophers had a lot of success as they went to five sets just one time. In fact, they own a 27-12 record in the sets played over the past ten games.
Minnesota has been led by one of the top attackers in the country and back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year, Stephanie Samedy. She had 484 kills this season (16th best in NCAA) and averages 4.84 kills per set, which is eighth best in the NCAA. She also sits 20th in the country for points scored at 538.5.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS
Here is a look at some team stats of USD vs. Minnesota.
|Kills per Set||13.2||13.6|
|Assists per Set||12.3||12.6 (45)|
|Blocks per Set||2.2||2.5 (42)|
KEYS TO THE MATCH
Friday’s contest will be the first time the Golden Gophers and Coyotes have crossed paths. However, the Coyotes are quite familiar with Minnesota thanks to a special connection.
Leeanne Williamson, USD’s head coach, used to coach with Matt Houk, who is Minnesota associate head coach.
“Luckily with where we’re at and with my connections to the coaches up there, we’ve watched quite a bit of them throughout the season. I love watching their team play,” Williamson said. “We had a good at least, understanding not necessarily of the X’s and O’s because I like to watch volleyball sometimes and just enjoy the match, but we had an understanding of who they were.”
USD matches up fairly well to Minnesota’s size. The matchup of USD’s outside hitters vs. Samedy and the Golden Gophers will be key Friday.
“Our best two pick blockers are on the outside, so that actually does matchup with you know, obviously Samedy on the right side,” Williamson said. “Our middles can be big, so in terms of size, we’re not totally oversized. We’re not totally overmatched in that way. It’s just, can we play that game at that high level.”
The main key to the match will be which team can play their brand of volleyball better. Minnesota has their brand of volleyball that has worked extremely well over the past few weeks.
They’ll look to stick to what they do best, while going through their three talented attackers in Stephanie Samedy, Jenna Wenaas and Airi Miyabe. Samedy leads the team with 484 kills, but Wenaas (336) and Miyabe (261) are the only other two over a hundred.
On defense, Katie Myers is the person to watch out for from Minnesota. The 6’2 redshirt senior leads the teams in blocks with 117 blocks. That’s 45 more than the next highest player who is Ellie Husemann.
On the the other side of the court, USD will need to focus on themselves and their side of the court.
“We don’t want to play down to a level. We don’t need to mimic somebody else’s pace or their style of play or their style of energy, we just need to be us,” Williamson said. “I do think it’s really important going into this week of remembering who we are, why we’re playing this game and what some of those keys are within our own program to have that success.”
Coach Williamson says that focusing on themselves is more important on Friday than most matches, as their facing a talented opponent.
Junior defensive specialist, Brooklyn Bollweg and senior defensive specialist, Lolo Weideman, each said how they felt they didn’t play their best brand of volleyball in last year’s NCAA Tournament game against Missouri. That is why the team is focused on playing their style.
Similar to Minnesota, the Coyotes have their talented attackers that they will need to lean heavily on. Statistically, USD has a little more depth as they have five players with 185 kills or more, including Elizabeth Juhnke (449), Sami Slaughter (298), Madison Harms (253), Aimee Adams (215) and Maddie Wiedenfeld (185).
USD’s defense will be key on Friday as they’ll need to find a way to block the ball against Minnesota’s heavy hitters.
Harms has a team high 119 blocks, while Maddie Wiedenfeld is next on the list at 82 blocks.
Just as important on defense is the digs they’ll attempt to get from Minnesota. They’ll turn to players like Lolo Weideman who has 527 digs this season, which ranks 31st in the country.
Juhnke has 337 digs, while Madison Jurgens has 257 and Brooklyn Bollweg 188.
USD and Minnesota will cross paths on Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ from Minneapolis. You can follow the action by visiting the KELOLAND.com Live Blog on the sports page. That will begin around 6:55 p.m.