Gophers finished third this season
The Big Ten is once again the queen of women’s volleyball.
With Nebraska defeating Florida for the 2017 NCAA Women’s Volleyball national championship in Kansas City earlier this month, the Big Ten now has claimed nine of the last 12 NCAA crowns — six by Penn State, 2007-10, 2013, 2014 and three by Nebraska in 2006, 2015 and 2017. The Huskies and Penn State playing each other in the Final Four meant the conference has had at least one team in the national semifinals 15 straight years, and 19 times since 1981.
The final American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) coaches poll placed seven Big Ten schools, with four ranked among the top 10: Nebraska (1), Penn State (3), Michigan State (8), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (12), Illinois (17) and Purdue (18). Minnesota this season reached the Sweet 16 before losing to national runner-up Florida.
Minnesota freshman opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy, a unanimous Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection, was among a record 17 Big Ten volleyball players selected as American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-Americans. She was a first-team selection, the first time in program history that a true freshman was so honored. Samedy also was named AVCA North Region Freshman of the Year among 32 conference All-Region honorees, and was among 10 Big Ten players named unanimous All-Big Ten.
Samedy led the 28-6 Gophers in kills (478), kills per set (4.05), points per set (4.54), and total points (535.5), and second in digs (333) behind Dalianliz Rosado’s 524. She played in all 34 matches, led in match kills 24 times, and finished second among Big Ten hitters — the Clermont, Florida native averaged 3.91 kills per set against opponents.
Samedy won two preseason tournament MVPs, and three times made all-tourney teams this season, along with being named twice conference top freshman of the week and once espnW National Player of the Week.
Sophomore outside hitter Alexis Hart was second in kills for Minnesota (446) and was named a third-team All-American and all Big-Ten. She made the conference’s all-freshman team in 2016.
Hart averaged 4.10 kills per set against Big Ten opponents and had 287 kills against league clubs. The Kansas City, Mo. native made two all-tournament teams and was named Big Ten Player of the Week once this season.
Samedy, Hart and Samantha Seliger-Swenson were the three individual Gophers named All-American this season.
The Gophers, who finished third in the conference regular season (15-5), is since the 2012 season among four Big Ten schools (Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin are the other three) that have been ranked number one in the nation a total of 51 weeks. The Nittany Lions have been atop 28 times during this time span.
Minnesota finished fourth in the nation in attendance (4,971 spectators on average), behind Wisconsin at third and national leader Nebraska. The Big Ten had nine of the nation’s top 25 teams in this category, the others being Penn State (sixth), Michigan State (ninth), Illinois (13th), Purdue (17th), Iowa (23rd) and Michigan (25th).
Most marketable Black athletes
Nielsen recently announced that three Black athletes are the most marketable athletes of 2017.
Sisters Serena and Venus Williams are the first and second most marketable athletes of 2017, according to Nielsen. This is based on its N-Score Talent Tracker that assesses endorsement and casting potential of actors, athletes, musicians and other U.S. celebrities on values that range from 1 to 100, using such attributes as influential, role model, and trendsetter.
Serena earned an 83 score, and Venus had a 79. NBAer LeBron James is third with a 76.
Information from MediaPost.com was used in this report.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.