Gopher Volleyball: Women’s 2022 NCAA Tournament


Haley Wolff

After an impressive overall season record of 22-8 and a conference record of 15-5, the Women’s Gopher Volleyball Team received the number 2 seed in their quadrant of the 2022 NCAA Division 1 Volleyball Championships tournament.

They additionally hosted both the 1st and 2nd rounds of the tournament here on campus in the Maturi Pavilion.

In the first round of play on Friday, December 2nd the Gophers faced Southeastern Louisiana University (25-7) which resulted in a 3-0 Gopher win. With this sweep, Minnesota advanced to the Round of 32 for the 8th straight year. Junior Jenna Wenaas ended the game with 10 kills and 14 digs while Freshman Carter Booth had 11 kills and 3 blocks. Leading the backcourt was Graduate student CC McGraw with 15 digs while Junior Melani Shaffmaster had 34 assists, 5 digs, and 4 kills. This win also marks head coach Hugh McCutcheon’s 11-0 record in first-round games in the NCAA Tournament.

Round 2 happened just a day later on December 3rd. After beating Florida State who were ranked the 7th seed in their quadrant, the University of Northern Iowa (27-7), an unranked team, progressed to round 2 against the Gophers. Repeating their dominant performance, the Gophers beat Northern Iowa in a 3-0 sweep and advanced to the Sweet 16, their 8th straight year doing so. This will be their 20th all-time appearance in the Sweet 16. They defeated UNI in 3 straight sets, 25-18, 25-16, and 25-15 in the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday night. Notably, redshirted Sophomore Taylor Landfair paced the Gophers with 11 kills while her teammate Carter Booth had 6 kills and 11 blocks. Additionally, Melani Shaffmaster led the offensive efforts by posting 25 assists, along with 3 kills and 5 digs. Thanks to the spiking ability of Senior Rachel Kilkelly, the team was able to give UNI a run for its money. Overall, the team had 33 kills, 6 blocks, 29 digs, and 4 aces while UNI had 34 kills, 3 blocks, 34 digs, and 1 ace.

Round 3 games will occur on the 8th and 10th. But on Thursday, December 8th at 11:00 am (CST) in Austin, Texas, Gophers face Ohio State (21-9), the 3rd seed, in the NCAA Regional Semifinals. Ohio State too has swept its last two matches against Tennessee State (19-15) and Southern California (21-10).

These teams have played each other previously in the season. On October 12th, 2022 Ohio State swept UMN with the set scores of 25-20, 25-21, and 25-22. As you can see there were all very close matches. This was their first loss to Ohio State since 2014. Although on November 25th, 2022, the Gophers defeated Ohio State in four sets, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21, and 26-24. Once again these are very close matches and anyone can see that this is going to be a close game. Many predictors are split on their guess here which means it should be an exciting and invigorating game.

The remaining teams in their quadrant of the bracket are Texas, ranked 1st, and Marquette, ranked 4th, meaning the top 4 progressed into the semifinals. This wasn’t true all across the bracket because 4th seed Creighton lost to an unseeded Auburn in the first round. The rest of the Sweet 16 teams include the four above, Baylor, Louisville, Nebraska, Oregon, Stanford, Houston, San Diego, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Penn St. Florida, and Pittsburgh.

The Gophers are known for their quick and efficient offense and are currently on a win streak, giving them lots of confidence. With several players leading the conference in statistics the Gophers are sure to make a deep playoff. As they progress through the NCAA tournament, I encourage you to tag along and cheer them on to the best of your ability!

Go Gophers!