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"We know what we're capable of": Gopher volleyball looks to make deep run in NCAA tournament

Gophers volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon to become U's associate athletic director
Gophers volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon to become U's associate athletic director 00:33

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gopher volleyball team is hosting their region of the NCAA tournament this week, preparing to face off against Southeastern Louisiana on Friday.

After a schedule with some slip-ups, the Gophers capped the regular season with two huge wins; one against Ohio State and the other against Nebraska. They swept the Cornhuskers in Lincoln for the first time in 40 years.

"We're a really good team," said Jenna Wenaas. "And I think we just showed that we are capable and we have learned necessary lessons throughout the season." 

It was a season that was hit by shocking news midway through. Head coach Hugh McCutcheon said he would be stepping down after his last match. He has taken Minnesota to 10 NCAA tournaments in his now-11th season and is looking to make a run, one last time.

"This has never been about me," McCutcheon said. "We're just out here competing and we'll get through the season and that'll be that. We're here to try to be the last team standing. That's always the goal. And our focus is there as it should be."  

"That was definitely something our team united on, where we were like, you know what, there's anything to fight for this season it's Hugh and it's each other. So it's not something we talk about a lot. Like, I don't think that's like our only narrative for this season. But yeah, we definitely want to, you know, finish things off for him and for this team, because we know what we're capable of," said graduate libero CC McGraw.

Most of the Gophers' recent success is due to the rise of Taylor Landfair - the redshirt sophomore outside hitter missed most of last season with an injury. But this year, she came roaring back to lead the Big Ten in kills and points per set. She earned her fourth Big Ten Player of the Week award on Monday. She also earned the AVCA Player of the Week award on Tuesday.

"Here's an athlete that's been told probably she's - and she has been, don't get me wrong - really good, but here she is working and learning and changing all the way through the season," said McCutcheon.

First serve against Southeastern Louisiana is at 7 p.m. on Friday. If the Gophers win, they'll face either Florida State or the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday.

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