Strib: Playing Less Stephanie Samedy Learned More About Her Role

Ignatius L Hoops

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Stephanie Samedy is used to carrying a heavy workload. As a six-rotation player, the Gophers’ do-it-all junior rarely leaves the volleyball court, regularly ranking among her team’s leaders in kills, blocks, digs and aces.

She’s expecting to play her usual part Friday, when the Gophers open the NCAA tournament against Fairfield at Maturi Pavilion. But earlier this season, when injuries forced the team to switch its offensive scheme, Samedy needed to learn a skill that came much less easily. She had to rotate in and out under the two-setter system the Gophers used in several matches, putting her in the rare position of watching some points from the sidelines.

“I knew it was something we needed to do for the team,” she said. “And at the end of the day, it’s always about the team.”

The 6-2 opposite hitter has returned to her six-rotation role, now that setter Kylie Miller is back in the lineup after recovering from a concussion. With a little less time on the court this season, Samedy’s statistics aren’t as gaudy as usual, but she still leads the Gophers with 313 kills, and is third in blocks (89), digs (247) and aces (19). Wednesday, she was named to the All-Big Ten first team for the third consecutive season.
Samedy meshed well with Miller, the Gophers’ new setter, at the start of the season, racking up 94 kills in the first six matches. Miller was injured in late September and missed 13 of the next 15 contests.

The Gophers ran their usual 5-1 offense — five hitters and one setter — for a while, as Bayley McMenimen stepped in. But McCutcheon later switched to a 6-2 scheme, which uses six hitters and two setters.

That system temporarily suited the Gophers, keeping their relatively short setters out of the front row. But its substitution pattern required Samedy to share time on the right side with Airi Miyabe. In addition to getting fewer attacks, Samedy had to adjust to moving in and out of the match, and to being a spectator for stretches.

“As the season went on, it was about, ‘What can I contribute to the team?’ ” she said. “Maybe that was energy or leadership. Or serving aggressive or making good blocks, as opposed to just looking at how many kills I got in a match.
 
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