No. 1 Minnesota is just one year removed from two consecutive Final Four appearances, but one of the only players who remains from that time is in her last season.
Although being at the top of the NCAA rankings is nothing new for senior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson, she is taking in every moment with the Gophers (5-0) before her time ends.
“Now that I’m a senior, I don’t get as nervous or anxious when we play in front of big crowds,” Seliger-Swenson said. “It’s really allowed me to kind of take a step back and really appreciate everything.”
Seliger-Swenson is a three-time All-American with two back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2015 and 2016. She said missing the Final Four in 2017 left a sour taste in the team's mouth.
“Last year was tough since some of us had been to the Final Four, which made us feel like we took a step back,” Seliger-Swenson said. “Going into the spring, [our team] reminded ourselves that we’re not satisfied with the Sweet Sixteen.”
Although the Final Four is in the back of all the players' minds, it is not the focus, Seliger-Swenson said.
“I’m really just trying to focus on one day at a time because there is no point in worrying about [the Final Four] if we don’t focus on the game ahead of us,” she said.
Seliger-Swenson learned this mindset when she was developing her skills as a freshman. As a senior, it is her turn to lead and share the importance of this philosophy.
“The past couple of years I’ve been able to be more of a leader and show the younger girls what it is to be a Minnesota volleyball player,” she said. “I think my role has shifted [from] learning the ropes to showing people the ropes.”
Seliger-Swenson's mentality and leadership skills have earned her recognition from her teammates.
“I think she’s a great teammate and leader,” said sophomore Jasmyn Martin. “She really helps us as a team and helps people around her get better.”
Head coach Hugh McCutcheon said he is looking forward to seeing Seliger-Swenson's growth during her senior campaign.
“She’s a three-time All-American, and getting into her senior year I think her game will continue to improve,” McCutcheon said. “We’re excited to see what she does this year.”
Seliger-Swenson is a local player from Hopkins High School, located about 20 minutes southwest of the University’s campus.
Currently, Seliger-Swenson is preparing for this weekend’s match-ups against Oregon and No. 4 Stanford. But she said playing in the Final Four at the Target Center in Minneapolis at the end of the season would be the perfect send-off.
“It would be amazing to play [the Final Four] in front of our home crowd. It would be the perfect way to end my senior year,” Seliger-Swenson said. “But, I’m still just focusing on today.”