Gopher Volleyball: Minnesota to start season at No. 6


August 27, 2011; State College, PA, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers outside hitter Ashley Wittman (13) scores a point against the Oregon Ducks at Rec Hall. Minnesota defeated Oregon 3 games to 2. Mandatory Credit: Rob Christy-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 University of Minnesota volleyball season begins Aug. 30 at the UAB/Samford Volleyball Challenge in Birmingham, Ala. The Golden Gophers will enter the season opening tournament ranked No. 6 overall after the AVCA D-I Preseason Poll was released Monday.

Minnesota is coming off a 27-8 overall record in 2012 after advancing to the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Elite 8. The Maroon and Gold fell to regional No. 1 seed Penn State 3-1 in their final match last season and look to improve under second year head coach Hugh McCutcheon. The Nittany Lions would lose their next match in the Final Four to Oregon, who would lose the National Championship in straight sets to Texas.

The Gophers finished 2012 ranked No. 8 overall in the final AVCA poll of the year. Ranking fourth amongst the seven Big Ten schools in the Top 25 at the end of last year.

Minnesota should be primed for another strong season in the conference and nationally. The Gophers return plenty of talent and worked hard to bring in some stellar recruits from around the world. The positive of having McCutcheon as head coach is his knowledge of international volleyball.

The Olympic volleyball coach for both men and women of Team USA, McCutcheon used his expertise around the globe to help bring in freshmen like Brittany Jack (Sydney, Aus.) and Dalianliz Rosado (Morovis, P.R.). He also helped shut down the local borders by locking up sisters Hannah and Paige Tapp (Stewartville, Minn.) as well as Sarah Wilhite (Eden Prairie). Wilhite had originally committed to play for the Wisconsin Badgers, but changed her commitment last fall.

Pair those talented freshmen with the likes of seniors Tori Dixon, Alexandra Palmer, and Ashley Wittman and Minnesota should ride this No. 6 ranking to even greater heights as the season progresses.

The Gophers open their home schedule against Ball State on Sept. 6 in the Diet Coke Classic at the Sports Pavillion. They start their Big Ten conference schedule on Sept. 25 against Indiana.

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