MN Daily: Errors Drop Gophers from Rankings

Ignatius L Hoops

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by Alex Karwowski
Published October 16, 2023
The Gophers women’s volleyball team shocked fans when they dropped two road matchups against two unranked teams, but quickly redeemed themselves by following the two losses with two wins. The two unranked wins, however, were not enough for the Gophers to keep their No. 24 ranking.

The team made history last week after they lost, for the first time, against Maryland and gave Rutgers their first-ranked win in program history the following day.

For a team that finished third in the Big Ten last season, dropping two unranked matchups and facing a three-game losing streak was an unknown feeling for a team with top-level talent.


Part of what is keeping the Gophers from being victorious is the number of service errors committed. Between their losses to Maryland and Rutgers, the team totaled 45 attack errors, 27 service errors and three blocking errors.

Fifth-year libero Kylie Murr said her strategy to rally the team when facing adversity is to practice how to go about addressing it in the gym.

“We have to keep encouraging each other to go for it,” Murr said. “The more we practice it in this gym, the easier it will show up on game nights.”

Fourth-year setter Melani Shaffmaster said the adversity bothers the team during the game because, for many of them, it is the first time they have faced repeated hardship. The team gets frustrated because they do not know what to fix until after the game ends and they review the film.

“Once you get to step out of it and watch film, you kind of need to internalize yourself and see, ‘Hey, what can I do better and how is that going to help the group,’” Shaffmaster said.

Even with top-level talent, the Gophers have only been able to squeeze by with an 8-8 record at the midpoint of their season.

Head Coach Keegan Cook said these stretches are humbling for players who have achieved a lot in their careers because they get stripped down to the real “why” of who they are.

When facing adversity, Cook said players either tune in to their “fight or flight” response or ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?” and “What exists about me independent of what is going on?”

“I see some more of themselves,” Cook said. “I see some searching too. They’re going through their strategies for what has worked in the past for them as elite athletes.”

Shaffmaster took a week off to rest and sat out during the Maryland and Rutgers game. She noticed the team did a lot right and said they often do not give themselves enough credit, resulting in aggravation.

“We’re not giving ourselves enough credit in the game, so it’s just a weight on our shoulders,” Shaffmaster said. “We’re focusing so much on the bad just because it’s magnified.”

The Gophers brought their attack errors down to eight, service errors to six and had no blocking errors Wednesday against Michigan. The team played Northestern Sunday and old habits resurfaced as they more than doubled their attack errors from Sunday, had seven service errors and no blocking errors.

With much of their season still left to play, Murr said the team is still growing and learning as they develop in their roles on the court. She added that as a leader on the team, she asks herself how uncomfortable she can get her teammates in practice so that when they enter a live game, the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.

“As a leader, I can’t sit and think about the past,” Murr said. “I just have to keep trying to think about things moving forward and how we can get out of this little slump.”

The Gophers return to Maturi Pavilion Oct. 20 when they play the unranked Rutgers Scarlet Knights for their Dig Pink match.
 

They deserve to be unranked for how they’ve played this year.

More than anything, KCook deserves it for being such a boneheaded mule about playing the OH backrow instead of DSing out.
 

Before this season started many of us were hoping they could finish in the top 3 in the BIG Conference and make a decent run in post season. Half way through the season it is very obvious that will not happen. As fans moving forward that doesn't mean we cannot make as many POSITIVE comments in our posts about players and their matches whether they win or lose. I for one am going to keep trying to do that.

On paper and with the new additions to this team, Murr and Z, I know I was hoping for a hopeful season. One would be a fool thinking otherwise without decent back court replacements for CC, Kilkelly and Wenaas. Murr is living up to our expectations. However, we have been let down by a non existing Z in matches. We see many glimpses of hope when she is only being utilized as a serving sub.....but this leaves many of us fans wondering if she will ever be a DS in the remainder of this season.

Also, many fans questioned how would we be able to replace Carter and her blocking this seasson......I know I was. Again, you would be a fool to think otherwise. So this coaching staff brings in two recruits, Awoleye and Grote, who so far have added a lot to this team. Although Awoleye needs to work on the slide and hitting and Grote needs to work on her blocking and digging, both have been out performing many of our returning Gopher players.

Right now I see nothing but positive attitudes with our new players...Murr, Z, Grote and Awoleye. They all bring that to the court every game.

We see a different coaching system which is calling for player adjustments. Also, I feel we have players internalizing way way way too much which is definitely affecting the outcome of these matches. In other words, SET PERSONAL GOALS that can be reached. If you keep doing that, you will not be disappointed.

In all honesty, as a Gopher volleyball fan for years, I was not expecting the season we are having. With that said, I just want this team to enjoy themselves for the remainder of this season and for each player to bring back their own joy in playing it on game day. The fans are there every game and ready to support this team. All one has to do is look at the attendance every match.
 

Like you I have been surprised by the play of gophers this year, but that being said I still believe the team has the potential for success in the second half of the season. There have been many changes and it takes time to get comfortable in a new system.
 

What have been the “many” changes from last year?

Honestly. Asking for a friend. What are they?


It’s all the same players, other than the L, which is a specialized position and Murr is at least as good as CC, and M2 which is really nothing more than a blocker for us with Schaff as a setter.


What else has changed???

The only thing that strikes true for me is that we no longer have Killkelly playing a full number of rotations in the backrow for one of our OH. I don’t remember who she subbed out, if it was Wucherer or Landfair. But I also don’t remember the other that stayed in being such a liability on serve receive or defense.


The overall abysmal playing of our two OH, especially “first touch ability” (whatever labels you want to give that), but also their ineffective hitting, has sunk this season.

Flat out. Ground truth.


These were both supposedly #1 ranked recruits in their two classes.
 


So??? Yeah Murr is not CC either.

Grote has feasted this year. Schaff does a great backseat, one of her best abilities. Ask Samedy about that.

Grote/Hanson is easily as effective as Wenaas was.

That’s not a meaningful change.
 

Absolutely 0% chance that Wenaas is the difference between last year and this year. Not even on the table to discuss.

It’s the OH and our dumbass mule of a HC who leaves them in the backrow inexplicably.


No possible way that the new Turkish player and Skylar Gray would have made as many errors as those two have.
 

What have been the “many” changes from last year?

Honestly. Asking for a friend. What are they?


It’s all the same players, other than the L, which is a specialized position and Murr is at least as good as CC, and M2 which is really nothing more than a blocker for us with Schaff as a setter.


What else has changed???

The only thing that strikes true for me is that we no longer have Killkelly playing a full number of rotations in the backrow for one of our OH. I don’t remember who she subbed out, if it was Wucherer or Landfair. But I also don’t remember the other that stayed in being such a liability on serve receive or defense.


The overall abysmal playing of our two OH, especially “first touch ability” (whatever labels you want to give that), but also their ineffective hitting, has sunk this season.

Flat out. Ground truth.


These were both supposedly #1 ranked recruits in their two classes.

CC was well known as one of the best passing Liberos. Murr is a defensive libero, she flies around digging but her passing is not nearly as precise.

Wenaas is gone, she was also known as a great passer and had a very strong game mentally.

Booth ran the slide a lot, which opens the offense up. I can think of the Gophers running a slide fewer than 5 times this year (though I haven't watched every game).

Gros also ran a really nice slide.

Shaffmaster seemed much healthier last year. I'm pretty sure Landfair has a nagging core injury or something, she's been hitting a bit harder the last few weeks but she's not 100%.

Who cares what players recruiting rankings were?

Do you think KCook is telling the players to hit it into the block?

I think, as we saw in the last 2 sets against NU, that Grote is going to start playing 6 rotations since she seems to have more OOS terminal ability than TL, MK and JH. JH can come in as a sub on the left then if we need a change of pace.

I'd still like to see ZP in the backrow for an entire set, at least so we could see why she's not been back there.

Also don't forget this team had a lot of issues last year. Up until Hugh announced his retirement, they were a mess. That seemed to get them going during the season, but their old demons came back against Ohio State in the NCAAs.

Keep in mind it's OK for teams to have a bad year. They learn a lot about themselves and others. I'm sure the next refrain from you will be that "these players suck, but we can't let them transfer!"
 
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Kilkelly subbed in for Wucherer and Tayla 6 rotations last season. Tayla hidden in serve receive by Hugh quite well so it would be very easy not to remember she was a 6R OH.
 



Absolutely 0% chance that Wenaas is the difference between last year and this year. Not even on the table to discuss.

It’s the OH and our dumbass mule of a HC who leaves them in the backrow inexplicably.


No possible way that the new Turkish player and Skylar Gray would have made as many errors as those two have.
At this point, I keep wondering if you actually believe what you post, or just love playng the "devil's advocate".
 

These were both supposedly #1 ranked recruits in their two classes.
There are #1 recruits and then there are #1 recruits.

Meaning, there are times where there is high school age player who is so head and shoulders above the rest in their skills and abilities that everyone knows will change the college game (for instance, Kathryn Plummer) and then there are years where there are a bunch of roughly equivalent high school age players and somebody has to be on the top of some organizations’s ranking list (but that spot could honestly be held by any one of about 20 players or more). So one of those players is rather arbitrarily decided to be #1.
 

There are #1 recruits and then there are #1 recruits.

Meaning, there are times where there is high school age player who is so head and shoulders above the rest in their skills and abilities that everyone knows will change the college game (for instance, Kathryn Plummer) and then there are years where there are a bunch of roughly equivalent high school age players and somebody has to be on the top of some organizations’s ranking list (but that spot could honestly be held by any one of about 20 players or more). So one of those players is rather arbitrarily decided to be #1.
Plummer....one of the biggest "game changers" in the sport. She has been known for single-handedly defeating the Gophers at least once during her career at Stanford. I always felt she was one of the Best OOS OH's ever.
 

Plummer....one of the biggest "game changers" in the sport. She has been known for single-handedly defeating the Gophers at least once during her career at Stanford. I always felt she was one of the Best OOS OH's ever.
The best I know of.
 






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