Gopher Volleyball 2021-Fall Season

MRJ

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Lack of mental toughness would be a kind way to describe this team's approach to the game much of the time. All too often, they simply coast through without any alteration to their play or strategy until it's almost too late. Then all of the sudden (when a loss is imminent), their brains click on for perhaps a set (or two) as they finally start playing with some level of focus. From there, they sometimes win, sometimes lose.

It's beyond frustrating for those us who are used to Gopher volleyball playing competent volleyball for full matches on the regular.

It's also why I predict this team will underachieve again. Tonight against Northwestern is like a case study in Gopher volleyball in 2021.
 

ClassOf98Gopher

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It's also why I predict this team will underachieve again. Tonight against Northwestern is like a case study in Gopher volleyball in 2021.
I guess my criticism of the criticism always comes down to the same argument; in this case it can be expressed this way: what does “underachieve” mean, specifically?
 

MRJ

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I guess my criticism of the criticism always comes down to the same argument; in this case it can be expressed this way: what does “underachieve” mean, specifically?
In this case? Having top 10-20 recruits all over the court, yet being unable to receive or pass with any level of consistency on a regular basis (which is becoming an annual issue). Also, competing hard consistently from point to point, which this team doesn't do regularly.

I'm not sure what the problem is, but with this much talent, they shouldn't simply click-on, click-off as drastically as they do from week-to-week, match-to-match. If the talent is as good as they tout, they should perform better. Period.

But they don't. Tonight was another case and point, in which they had to go 5 sets against Northwestern because they couldn't (or wouldn't) adjust to how things were going until they were about to lose (and still almost blew the 4th set).

Any way you slice it, with as many top 10 recruiting classes as they have had in recent years, they should be much better than they are. But they're not. In fact, they're not even close.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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It was a rugged but ultimately winning night in Evanston as the Gophers prevailed 24-26, 19-25, 25-18, 31-29 and 15-7. The first two sets were more vaudeville than volleyball for Minnesota and were not nearly as close as the scores. There were way too many Gopher collisions-there minds seem to still be making the trip from Madison.

In the first set, when it was 10-5 Wildcats, Hugh subbed in McMenimen and Miyabe. That lasted until it was 14-10 Wildcats and then Shaffmaster returned for the remainder of the match. Miyable took a regular turn in the front row and Wenaas was relegated to back row duty. Rubright evetually replaced Huseman who was relegated to the bench. Glenn made a few cameos at the service line.

The fourth set was wild with Minnesota fighting off multiple match points. Thankfully, the fifth set went more smoothly.

Landfair was spectacular pulling the Gophers hind quarters out of the fire. Landfair was hitting an error free .500 with 20 kills according to the announcer. Samedy led the team with kills; but had double digit hitting errors. Landfair and Miyabe were crucial to the victory.

The Gopher D had trouble stopping Thomas-Ailara. Fortunately, late in the fifth set she rotated to the back row taking the Northwestern offense with her. And with that rotation, Minnesota continued their win streak over Northwestern (last NU win was 2014).
 

Hrothgar

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A lot of the criticism in various posts is thought provoking. I thought the Gophers teams led by Santana, Wilhite, the Tapps, Hart, SSS, early Samedy, etc., were fiery & aggressive. Those fiery traits seemed to cool (for whatever reasons) after the Gophers beat WI for the 2nd time in the 2018 season and haven't been as obvious since then. Seems to me the critiques are aimed at the players. Isn't the coaching staff mainly responsible for forming a team's approach? And shaping competitive drive?
 


ClassOf98Gopher

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In this case? Having top 10-20 recruits all over the court, yet being unable to receive or pass with any level of consistency on a regular basis (which is becoming an annual issue). Also, competing hard consistently from point to point, which this team doesn't do regularly.

I'm not sure what the problem is, but with this much talent, they shouldn't simply click-on, click-off as drastically as they do from week-to-week, match-to-match. If the talent is as good as they tout, they should perform better. Period.

But they don't. Tonight was another case and point, in which they had to go 5 sets against Northwestern because they couldn't (or wouldn't) adjust to how things were going until they were about to lose (and still almost blew the 4th set).

Any way you slice it, with as many top 10 recruiting classes as they have had in recent years, they should be much better than they are. But they're not. In fact, they're not even close.
I guess what I have a problem with is that this critique is somewhat detailed “receive and pass with consistency” but it seems devoid of acknowledgment of the other team’s drive to win. They are trying too. They are trying to make our receiver hard… to make our passing ackward.

I am not as studied in the specifics of each game but when I analyze the team I am focused on the wins and losses. It seems to me they are losing to who they should lose to and beating who they should beat. So I am not terribly dissatisfied with how the season is going.

If they finish outside the top 5 of the Big Ten, I would be surprised and disappointed. I would be dissatisfied if they are not in the top 12 nationally ranked teams at seeding time. Honestly, this is a team that can make the Elite 8, in my mind.
 

MRJ

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A lot of the criticism in various posts is thought provoking. I thought the Gophers teams led by Santana, Wilhite, the Tapps, Hart, SSS, early Samedy, etc., were fiery & aggressive. Those fiery traits seemed to cool (for whatever reasons) after the Gophers beat WI for the 2nd time in the 2018 season and haven't been as obvious since then. Seems to me the critiques are aimed at the players. Isn't the coaching staff mainly responsible for forming a team's approach? And shaping competitive drive?
They're primarily to blame imo. I'm not sure the communication is very good. It wasn't until Hugh became quite animated between the second and third sets that they started really locking in tonight.

If that had been a one-off, it wouldn't be anything worth bringing up. But it has become a pattern, especially over the past few years. Ultimately, that falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff to find a way to get through to the team. But right now, the team seems less than the sum of its parts, which is not where a supposedly top level program should be.
 

MRJ

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I guess what I have a problem with is that this critique is somewhat detailed “receive and pass with consistency” but it seems devoid of acknowledgment of the other team’s drive to win. They are trying too. They are trying to make our receiver hard… to make our passing ackward.

I am not as studied in the specifics of each game but when I analyze the team I am focused on the wins and losses. It seems to me they are losing to who they should lose to and beating who they should beat. So I am not terribly dissatisfied with how the season is going.

If they finish outside the top 5 of the Big Ten, I would be surprised and disappointed. I would be dissatisfied if they are not in the top 12 nationally ranked teams at seeding time. Honestly, this is a team that can make the Elite 8, in my mind.
The problem with this approach is that it ignores talent. Of course the other team wants to win. But lesser talent doesnt beat superior talent if the superior works just as hard. Tonight, Northwestern worked much, much harder and probably deserved to win. But I'm not a Northwestern fan. I'm a Minnesota fan and if the Gophers had worked hard from the start, they probably take care of business in three or maybe four. But that didn't happen. And it's not the first time. In fact, it's an established pattern now.

Makes me wonder somewhat about the future for Hugh and the program.
 

Hrothgar

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I guess what I have a problem with is that this critique is somewhat detailed “receive and pass with consistency” but it seems devoid of acknowledgment of the other team’s drive to win. They are trying too. They are trying to make our receiver hard… to make our passing ackward.

I am not as studied in the specifics of each game but when I analyze the team I am focused on the wins and losses. It seems to me they are losing to who they should lose to and beating who they should beat. So I am not terribly dissatisfied with how the season is going.

If they finish outside the top 5 of the Big Ten, I would be surprised and disappointed. I would be dissatisfied if they are not in the top 12 nationally ranked teams at seeding time. Honestly, this is a team that can make the Elite 8, in my mind.
The MN VB program, as it's established itself, should not be "losing to who they should lose to." There shouldn't be anybody they should lose to.They should be playing absoulutely even with the elite and beating everybody else. Why is this not happening? (Maybe a certain dissension that grew up in 2018-19 & hasn't been fully addressed? Just a gut feeling I have, based on no evidence.)
 



ClassOf98Gopher

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The MN VB program, as it's established itself, should not be "losing to who they should lose to." There shouldn't be anybody they should lose to.They should be playing absoulutely even with the elite and beating everybody else. Why is this not happening? (Maybe a certain dissension that grew up in 2018-19 & hasn't been fully addressed? Just a gut feeling I have, based on no evidence.)
…or, could it be that volleyball is a growing sport in the United States as some types of girls have preferred the sport’s vibe as compared to the basketball vibe and with that growth, talent is distributed to more college teams than just the elite 7 (Penn State /Stanford / Nebraska / Texas / Florida / Wisconsin/ Minnesota)? With more parity come more losses.
 


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I truly believe there is more parity in Volleyball. However; I and I think most of the MINNESOTA FANS would agree that this team is struggling from game to game in their TEAM OVERALL performance.

When a Big Ten Player of the Year and multiple Big Ten Player of the Week etc. etc. etc. has 15 ERRORS and a hitting % of .116 for the game (win or lose), there is a definite problem......especially, if she has NO KNOWN INJURIES.

Connection with the setter and players is still a definite WORK IN PROGRESS and the Junior Middles, Rubright and Husemanm, still cannot play defense/offense. as the team needs them to. Their performances are forcing the pins to score more, which means our opponents are camping out waiting for Landfair, Wenaas, Miyabe or Samedy to get the ball. You don't have to be an elite team to come up with a defense on that type of offense. All a coach has to do is watch a video or an actual match to come up with the correct strategy, when playing Minnesota.

Lastly, we do not do well when our opponent serves us tough. If we cannot pass accurately, it can cause our setter to set poorly and in most cases it does. The fact is our hitters are then at a disadvantage trying to connect with the set.

Just think where we would be if Samedy and Miyabe didn't come back...especially, with Rollins and Pittman deciding to move on. Personally, I think Hugh knew that he needed some of them back. I have no proof to that, but that is my gut feeling.
 
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Hrothgar

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I truly believe there is more parity in Volleyball. However; I and I think most of the MINNESOTA FANS would agree that this team is struggling from game to game in their TEAM OVERALL performance.

When a Big Ten Player of the Year and multiple Big Ten Player of the Week etc. etc. etc. has 15 ERRORS and a hitting % of .116 for the game (win or lose), there is a definite problem......especially, if she has NO KNOWN INJURIES.

Connection with the setter and players is still a definite WORK IN PROGRESS and the Junior Middles, Rubright and Husemanm, still cannot play defense/offense. as the team needs them to. Their performances are forcing the pins to score more, which means our opponents are camping out waiting for Landfair, Wenaas, Miyabe or Samedy to get the ball. You don't have to be an elite team to come up with a defense on that type of offense. All a coach has to do is watch a video or an actual match to come up with the correct strategy, when playing Minnesota.

Lastly, we do not do well when our opponent serves us tough. If we cannot pass accurately, it can cause our setter to set poorly and in most cases it does. The fact is our hitters are then at a disadvantage trying to connect with the set.

Just think where we would be if Samedy and Miyabe didn't come back...especially, with Rollins and Pittman deciding to move on. Personally, I think Hugh knew that he needed some of them back. I have no proof to that, but that is my gut feeling.
Very interesting & insightful. I think what most of the MINNESOTA FANS, as you mention, wonder about is: How did these shortcomings with middles, weaker passing, and errant setting come about in the past 2-3 years?
 



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IMO Hugh has always focused on the pins and setter. We have had two National Players of the Year in Santana and Wilhite both OH's and hoping Samedy will follow in their footsteps this year. However, she cannot afford to have matches like she did vs. Northwestern......but will still have an outstanding Pro Career no matter what. Right now I personally want to see how long of a leash Shaffmaster has with Hugh. She isn't running the fast paced offense he likes and I don't know if that is due to her knee brace she has to wear or her physical capabilities. This juror is still out on that.

We all need to remember that Hugh walked into an already well established program with former coach, Mike Hebert. I just loved the Liberos we had during Hebert's coaching career in Minnesota. Today I feel they were the best this program has ever seen. Also, the eventual USA Middles in Gibbemeyer and Dixon were both outstanding Minnesota players under Hebert. I guess it can possibly be looked at as two different views of what a Head Coach is looking for when recruiting.

This weekend our players looked to be going through the motions. Always playing not to lose instead of playing to win until Hugh finally got into their heads the third set of the Northwestern match. Even then it wasn't very pretty, but we pulled out a win. I must admit it is really really hard to watch this team on the court. Unfortunately, there has been a lot of Out of System ball handling and I am expecting it to continue. Shaffmaster needs to take her setting to another level. We are 1/3 of the way through the season.
 
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ClassOf98Gopher

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.::Right now I personally want to see how long of a leash Shaffmaster has with Hugh. She isn't running the fast paced offense he likes and I don't know if that is due to her knee brace she has to wear or her physical capabilities. This juror is still out on that.

…Shaffmaster needs to take her setting to another level.
I feel like I am the only pro-Shaffmaster writer on this board, but I assume her leash is infinitely long. As in, it’s her team through 2023.

Now to be open and up-front, my favorite Gopher volleyball player ever was SSS (although Wilhite’s Senior year was my favorite year of watching any single player ever). For at least three years I watched the game to watch SSS. My eyes were drawn to her play on the tv screen. And I concede Shaffmaster is probably not as strong of a technical setter as Seliger-Swenson right now. However, I think she does quite well participating in the entirety of the play of a game (blocking/receiving/setting), despite the views of others on this board. She has participated in her share of wins and it seems to me like she will get a lot of wins in the future.
 

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Refining ones technique in some cases can take an entire college career while others can remain on the bench most of their volleyball career. It certainly varies with each individual player and IMO the coaches ability to help develop the skills of that player. I believe Hugh has shown that ability over the years.

Little girls dream I'm sure all the time of one day playing for a top college. But you must also know it will take a lot of time and hard work on your part. Some have high aspirations of becoming an Olympian after their college play. Maybe many of us can relate to that. The REALITY of it all is that NOTHING IS A GIVEN IN THIS WORLD.

I truly hope Shaff can improve her skills because she is the so-called QB of this Gopher Volleyball Team. I am not giving the rest of this team a passing grade by no means. But a lot, not all, of this team's success falls on her shoulders. Whether the pass is good or bad, she needs to adjust to that. Whether the set to the pins is good or bad the pins need to adjust. Finally, she and our middles need to come up with some connection.

This entire team needed a reality check and, hopefully, they got one this past weekend. Now let's go out there and play Gopher Volleyball.
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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NCAA RPI Rankings through games of 10/3/21. Top 16 and others of note:

1 Pittsburgh
2 Texas
3 Louisville
4 Wisconsin
5 Purdue

6 Baylor
7 Tennessee
8 Kentucky
9 Penn State
10 Minnesota
11 Ohio State

12 Georgia Tech
13 Utah
14 Colorado
15 Rice
16 Stanford

21 Nebraska
29 Illinois
33 Michigan
 

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Based on at least this ranking it seems obvious that power is moving around in NCAA volleyball - that is for sure.
 


let'sbeclear

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NCAA RPI Rankings through games of 10/3/21. Top 16 and others of note:

1 Pittsburgh
2 Texas
3 Louisville
4 Wisconsin
5 Purdue

6 Baylor
7 Tennessee
8 Kentucky
9 Penn State
10 Minnesota
11 Ohio State

12 Georgia Tech
13 Utah
14 Colorado
15 Rice
16 Stanford

21 Nebraska
29 Illinois
33 Michigan
Note that 2 of the top 3 (and 3 of the top 12) are ACC teams.

Big Ten has 5 of the top 10 (and 6 of the top 13) in the coaches' poll, and 5 of the top 11 in the RPI.

Some of the bigger discrepancies between this first RPI and the latest coaches' poll:

Tennessee (7, 22)
Colorado (14, 24)
Rice (15, 31)
Nebraska (21, 10)
Florida (30, 20)
Western Kentucky (35, 20)
Pepperdine (41, 23)
San Diego (45, 25)
 


Ignatius L Hoops

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Gopher Sports Spotlight: Taylor Landfair

Taylor Landfair is a sophomore outside from Plainfield, Ill. As a freshman in 2020-21, Landfair was named First Team All-Big Ten, an AVCA All-America Honorable Mention and the AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year. She came to Minnesota as the nation's No. 1 overall recruit and immediately delivered, playing in every match and ranking second on the team with 202 kills (3.03 k/s).

GS: Why did you get into volleyball and at what age did you start playing?
TL:
I believe I was in fourth or fifth grade. Previously I played a bunch of different sports - basketball, soccer, I danced - but then I had to choose 1-2 that I really wanted to do. She started showing me volleyball because she played when she was younger and I just loved it. She showed me the techniques such as simple passing, setting and hitting. When I was in sixth grade I started playing club for Sports Performance and pretty much focused on volleyball ever since.

GS: What's your favorite part of being an outside?
TL:
Definitely hitting. I like being able to trick the other team with a little roll shot or hitting it over the block. I also love blocking because there's nothing like getting on top of the ball for a huge stuff and everyone on the team goes crazy. It's such a big momentum builder.

GS: What was your recruiting process like?
TL:
My recruiting process was actually pretty chill. It helped that my mom was there for me the whole time (she ran track at North Carolina) to help me navigate the process. She made it a priority to be by my side the whole time. I started to get college letters in seventh grade but she didn't let me see them until I was in high school so I wouldn't get 'big-headed.' We kind of narrowed down my list of schools that I was really interested in and then focused on them in terms of visits, calls and everything like that.

GS: Besides Minnesota, what other schools were you considering in the process?
TL:
Minnesota was obviously contacting me, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Florida, Penn State and Stanford. But my top three were Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

GS: What made you ultimately choose Minnesota?
TL:
When I came on the visits here, it was really eye-catching that whenever I'd come around the girls on the team were so welcoming towards me. They always came up and asked me how I'm doing and if I had any questions and just made me feel really comfortable. Lexi Hart, Taylor Morgan and Stephanie [Samedy] would always be the first ones to welcome me and that meant a lot. Also, I really liked everything else - the campus is gorgeous and the coaches are obviously really good.

GS: What were your conversations with Coach McCutcheon like?
TL:
He always told me I have so much potential and he can see so much in me. He wants to help me develop into the best player in the entire world. If he believes I can be that good, than I believe it too. He's coached in the Olympics and he's coached so many great players and teams - I just knew he was who I wanted to play for.

GS: When exactly did you know that you were going to make the final decision to come be a Gopher?
TL:
It was my third visit here and I was in the hotel room with my mom. It was late after a game and she was just talking to me about if I think I'm getting close to a decision on the school I want to go to. So we went and made a pros and cons list about the schools I was considering and there were so many more pros than cons with Minnesota. I looked at her and I go 'I want to go to Minnesota,' and then I committed the next day.

GS: What was it like going through your first season as a Gopher last season during the COVID-19 pandemic?
TL:
Even though we didn't have any fans, I still thought it was a great experience. We still honed in on the process and kept the big picture in our minds so once it came time to compete, I was ready. I thought I'd be more nervous, but I just remembered how much work I've put in and knew that I was ready for this level.

GS: You had an excellent freshman season, making All-American, All-Big Ten and Big Ten All-Freshmen teams. What did it mean to you to be able to accomplish those feats?
TL:
I thought it was really cool, just because there are so many good players out there and it's an honor to receive any recognition. It made me want to keep working and become the best player I can be to help my team.

GS: This year you've been dealing with an injury early in the season - what's it been like having to deal with that adversity?
TL:
I'm just trying to focus on the positives and work on the things I can get better at before I'm fully ready to get back in there. I've been working on my passing and serve receive especially and just honing in on my techniques. Off the court, I'm just trying to be the best teammate I can be, encouraging everyone else and still having fun and showing support on the sidelines.

GS: What goals do you have for the team this year?
TL:
I definitely want to try and win the Big Ten and make it to a Final Four. I think that would be so cool and it's always been a dream of mine. I think we have the potential and we've been working on the things we've struggled with early on. We've really made so many improvements.

GS: What goals do you have for yourself this year?
TL:
To improve the efficiency of my arm swing. Also to get out of my comfort zone more with my shots and my serve. Just being able to mix it up and be able to succeed in a lot of ways on the court.

GS: Why did you choose the No. 12?
TL:
My dad was No. 12 his whole life when he played basketball. Me and him were both born on the 12th, I'm November and he's March. I was born on the 12th, my sister was born on the 4th, my brother Junior was born on the 3rd and my other brother Taten was born on the 5th. All those numbers together equal 12, so it's just a great number!

GS: Which games are you looking forward to most this year?
TL:
Definitely Nebraska and Wisconsin. Those were two other schools I was considering and they're obviously two of the best teams in the conference. Those are going to be big games for us.

GS: What do you like to do most off the court?
TL:
I love hanging out with my friends and teammates. I just like being active, going to the mall and just being outside the apartment. I like to go and do things and see new places.

GS: What's something that Gopher fans don't know about you?
TL:
I used to be a cheerleader (flyer) in third grade. Most people don't believe me just because I'm so tall. When I was in fifth grade I grew seven inches in one summer, so I wasn't always this tall!
 

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I thought there would be at least a few comments about the Michigan match by now. Are people stunned into silence?

Serving and serve receiving were obviously where this match was lost. Michigan had 8 aces and 5 serving errors for a net of +3; the Gophers had 1 ace and 16 errors for a net of -15. That created a huge hole that even a Gopher edge in kills and a smaller edge in blocks couldn't overcome. (On the other hand, though, nine of the Gopher errors were in the two sets they won, and only seven in the three sets they lost.)

Interestingly, this may also have been the key stat a couple of weeks back when the Gophers beat Michigan in five. The aces-errors for that match for Michigan were 1-11 and for the Gophers, 6-9.

The current season totals for aces-errors for the Gophers vs. their opponents are 70-95 and 53-94, so maybe last night's match was an anomaly.

Also kind of discouraging was that Michigan closed out the 5th set with a 5-0 run.
 
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Hrothgar

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I thought there would be at least a few comments about the Michigan match by now. Are people stunned into silence?

Serving and serve receiving were obviously where this match was lost. Michigan had 8 aces and 5 serving errors for a net of +3; the Gophers had 1 ace and 16 errors for a net of -15. That created a huge hole that even a Gopher edge in kills and a smaller edge in blocks couldn't overcome. (On the other hand, though, nine of the Gopher errors were in the two sets they won, and only seven in the three sets they lost.)

Interestingly, this may also have been the key stat a couple of weeks back when the Gophers beat Michigan in five. The aces-errors for that match for Michigan were 1-11 and for the Gophers, 6-9.

The current season totals for aces-errors for the Gophers vs. their opponents are 70-95 and 53-94, so maybe last night's match was an anomaly.

Also kind of discouraging was that Michigan closed out the 5th set with a 5-0 run.
Stunned? Maybe. Or more like mystified, at the Gophers seeming to bid farewell to their season with a puzzling performance. They could've put a stranglehold on the match in set 4, but fell asleep.
 

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Am I worried about the Michigan State match tonight? Yes.....when you play at home and you play a high ranked team, it is very easy to get pumped up as a team. Home court fans always help too.

How many times does the under dog play above their heads, as they say? We all know it happens a lot. Here's hoping not tonight.

Before it gets better, we need a lot more positive things to happen. For me starting with healthy/not injured players,
 
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NCAA RPI Rankings through matches of Sunday, October 10. Minnesota drops out of the top 16.

1 Texas
2 Pitt
3 Louisville
4 Wisconsin
5 Tennessee
6 Purdue
7 Baylor
8 Georgia Tech
9 Kentucky
10 Ohio State
11 UCLA
12 Utah
13 Creighton
14 Nebraska
15 Kansas
16 Penn State

20 Minnesota
31 MIchigan
32 Illinois
 

Ignatius L Hoops

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A nice calm night at the Pav as the Gophers swept the Wildcats 20, 10, 14. Miyabe with 11 kills, Samedy 10 and Rubright with 5 kills and 6 blocks.

Landfair was there; but unavailable. Maybe it's just me; but Hugh seemed to have more discussions than normal with Matt during the first two sets.
 

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It seemed like the Gophers dominated a team it should dominate. Maybe that's a sign of good things to come.

After Sunday's match with Indiana, they have a very tough stretch. In four of those next five matches, they play Penn State, Ohio State twice, and Nebraska. With three of those at home, it should be fun.
 

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A nice calm night at the Pav as the Gophers swept the Wildcats 20, 10, 14. Miyabe with 11 kills, Samedy 10 and Rubright with 5 kills and 6 blocks.

Landfair was there; but unavailable. Maybe it's just me; but Hugh seemed to have more discussions than normal with Matt during the first two sets.
So, as best as we can tell, what’s up with Landfair? Must be some kind of nagging injury. She gets a set here, a set and a half there. Has anybody seen a limp?
 

MplsGopher

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It seemed like the Gophers dominated a team it should dominate.
Right.

Sooo .... what the hell happened in the match 11 days before? And I doubt the Michigan trip developed a lot of confidence.


One thing for sure (from watching on TV at least): seemed like finally an intentional effort to set the middle.

Rubright .... where TF did she come from?? Haven't seen that attacking from her ... ever??
 




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