Once CC started playing organized volleyball, there was no question she would have to make her way as a defensive specialist, a digger, a point saver. “I wasn’t going to be a blocker, that’s for sure,” she said. “I was short.”
She still was a bit undersized six years ago, when Vicki Seliger was with Samantha at the Gophers’ elite camp, and looked around and said: “CC belongs here. She can compete with this group.”
McGraw was 13 and competed well enough to be offered by the Gophers as a freshman at Prior Lake High School. She committed early, and had the 2018 college season to play with Seliger-Swenson, a role model not by position but how to approach the game and college life.
“Samantha was such a tremendous player, and so gracious to CC as she was growing up in the game,” Heather said
The Gophers made that 10-1 on Wednesday, with an arduous five-set victory over underdog Ohio State at the Pavilion. The Buckeyes came in at 4-6 in the Big Ten, but they handled the Gophers in the second and third sets, and pushed them to 17-15 in the decisive fifth.
Bayley McMenimen, a sophomore from Niceville, Fla., has become the starting setter. She’s listed generously at 5-foot-9, making it more difficult to play at the net than it was for the 5-foot-11 Seliger-Swenson.
There was a moment in the decisive fifth set when McMenimen made a terrific dig to set up a kill, and McGraw responded with a joyous dance in the backcourt. Earlier in the week, she said: “Without Sam, I feel like I have to be more outgoing, show more leadership.”
This team can’t be mistaken for the outfit that won the Big Ten championship last season at 19-1. These Gophers still have the big hitters up front, but they have to fight for everything.