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Jack White | St. Paul Pioneer Press | September 15, 2017

Minnesota trying to close out unbeaten nonconference schedule

  No. 1 Minnesota is 8-0 heading into its final weekend of nonconference play.

The Minnesota women's volleyball team has accomplished a lot under coach Hugh McCutcheon.

Back-to-back trips to the Final Four, in 2015 and 2016. Back-to-back No. 1 rankings both of those seasons — and this year, too. A current 39-match winning streak at Maturi Pavilion.

There's one feat, however, McCutcheon and his team have yet to accomplish: winning a national championship.

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The Gophers (8-0) look to change that this fall, and the first step is to close out their nonconference schedule undefeated, something it has never done under McCutcheon. Minnesota plays three games this weekend in Boise, Idaho — against Oregon State and Boise State on Friday and Idado State on Saturday — before opening Big Ten play on Sept. 22. 

Minnesota handled the Beavers in its first matchup Friday morning, winning in four sets.

"This team has the capacity to work hard," junior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson said. "We've done that in the past as well, but I think we're very selfless. ... Not trying to look too hard into expectations."

The Gophers lost two All-Americans to graduation, including Sarah Wilhite, who led the team in kills and was named American Volleyball Coaches Association's Player of the Year in 2016.

"No doubt (Wilhite) carried a big load, but we've got a group of people that can manage those swings for us," McCutcheon said. "It seems to me that we've got a little more balance in the offense than in the past."

Freshman Stephanie Samedy currently leads the team in kills with 117. She was named ESPNW National Player of the Week on Tuesday. Sophomore Alexis Hart has 77 kills, and five others have more than 45 kills.

Back for a third season is the team leader in assists. Seliger-Swenson, Minnesota's starting setter since 2015.

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The Gophers' most recent victory came against then-No. 5 Texas in four sets. The win was Minnesota's second against a ranked opponent this season. Two years ago, the Longhorns defeated the Gophers in the NCAA semifinals.

"Going into the Texas match, I just thought our athletes' composure was really impressive," McCutcheon said. "To be able to play a good team in a good environment is important."

This article is written by Jack White from St. Paul Pioneer Press and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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