MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota volleyball team still has three regular season weeks of play before the NCAA Tournament, but the Gophers are closing out their home regular season this weekend.
Minnesota (15-7, 10-4) hosts Maryland Friday night and Indiana Sunday afternoon at Maturi Pavilion. The Gophers will host a Senior Day for the team’s five departing players: Miranda Wucherer, Rachel Kilkelly, CC McGraw, Naya Gros and Ellie Husman.
It’s also the final regular season home match for coach Hugh McCutcheon, who is stepping away from the team after his 11th season. His hope is that Sunday isn’t the last time the Gophers play at Maturi Pavilion, they’re currently ranked No. 9 in the country and have a strong chance at hosting in the NCAA Tournament.
"No, and I’m hoping it won’t be. I think if we can take care of business, we’ll have a chance to host maybe in the NCAA Tournament, should we be part of that package. Take it for what it is," McCutcheon said.
A few weeks after McCutcheon announced his 11th season would be his last, Athletic Director Mark Coyle announced McCutcheon will take over assistant athletic director and a sport development coach in January. McCutcheon will talk about the transition after the volleyball season.
His players want to send him out with a win. McCutcheon has led the Gophers to two Big Ten titles and three NCAA Final Fours in 10-plus seasons.
"Every chance we get to play we want to come out with a win. Especially we’re fighting for each other, but we’re fighting for Hugh. He’s done so much for us and for this program, so we want to do everything in our power to finish right," McGraw said.
It’ll be a bittersweet weekend for McGraw, a graduate student, who has more than 30 family and friends coming to her home regular season finale.
"It’s kind of settling in a little bit this week, to think that we have three weeks of Big Ten left, and then tournament. I’m just trying to soak it all in, we’ve got three weeks of tournament play after that so I’m just trying to focus on the end result there," McGraw said.
The Gophers enter their final regular season home matches having won two straight, and six of their past seven. That’s in large part due to the play of Taylor Landfair, the Big Ten Player of the Week for the third time this season.
Landfair had 20 kills and five digs in a sweep of Michigan, and added 19 kills in a win at Illinois. She leads the Big Ten in points (5.08) and kills (4.54) per set. Landfair is the only Power 5 player to have double-digit kills in every match this season.
"She’s obviously a very accomplished volleyball player but I think the biggest thing for her is managing the load that goes with being a six rotation kid that’s hitting front row and back row, and doing everything," McCutcheon said. "To have to try to capitalize on a lot of those point-scoring opportunities, it’s a lot. She’s doing a heck of a job."