Gophers volleyball gearing up for camp, start season Aug. 24

Published 3:20 pm Sunday, August 5, 2018

The University of Minnesota volleyball program reports for practice next week, while the Golden Gophers open the season on Aug. 24-25 when it hosts the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at the Target Center. Minnesota returns 12 letterwinners and five starters, including three All-Americans Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Alexis Hart and Stephanie Samedy. Head coach Hugh McCutcheon, now in his seventh year, hopes to build off a 2017 Sweet 16 appearance. As the Golden Gopher Volleyball program prepares for the season, caught up with McCutcheon prior to camp.

Q: How did the spring season help Gopher Volleyball prepare for this upcoming year?

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A: I thought it was a really good spring in terms of the work that the athletes did. I thought the work rate was very high and I thought their commitment to the process of change and their ability to learn and get better was as good as we have ever had it. Both of those things made it a really good spring for us. I thought we got a lot better and it will be interesting to see how that translates moving forward into the regular season.

Q: You lost a starting middle from last year’s team, who are some of the potential individuals that can take over that position?

A: I think we have a lot of people that can help us. That is the one of strengths of this group is the idea that it’s a meritocracy. If you’re in the gym you have a chance to earn the right to play. Replacing the middle position, which was Molly (Lohman) who did a great job for us for four years, is going to be a challenge but Regan Pittman had a great spring so she is going to keep doing what she has been doing. We have Taylor Morgan who had a really good spring in the mix there along with Paulina, Kayla and Becca, so there are a lot of people who could rise to the top and get the job done. The thing I like most about is that there are a lot of good players that will be battling for it.

Q:You’ve spoken that everyone can be a leader. How do you see the leadership developing throughout the year?

A:I always tell people that you don’t need to be a senior to be a senior. There is a couple of components that go along with that. One of which is obviously the leadership piece. I think anyone can earn a voice, you don’t have to be a senior to have that. The other part to it is that generally when people reach their senior year there is a sudden sense of finality to the whole thing. They realize this thing does not go on forever, and now all of the sudden they have to work harder and they’re more attentive and their commitment to doing it right seems to increase. My intention behind framing it that way is the fact that I don’t want people to reach their senior year have feelings of “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.” I think you have to really commit to this thing right away. If you do that, regardless of how your senior year finishes, you won’t have too many regrets.

Q: The 2018 Final Four is being held in Minneapolis, but obviously the team has a grueling schedule well before that point. How you prepare the team for the body of work rather than the end result?

A: It’s great that the Final Four is here, but for us to start thinking about that now, at least in terms of some concrete outcome, I think would be a little foolish. They say you eat the elephant one bite at a time and that’s really what it’s about. We’re going to take care of today and if we get enough good todays maybe we will get there at the end. We know the tournament is here and we’re excited at the possibility, we think it would be great to play a Final Four at home. That would be wonderful. However, there is a lot of water that has to go under a lot of bridges before we get to that point.