We know the Path Minnesota will need to pass to get back to the top of the Big Ten
The full 2022 Minnesota Gophers volleyball schedule was released this week and we now know the path that Minnesota will need to navigate to once again get to the top of the Big Ten conference, and back to making some noise in the NCAA Tournament. In what will be Hugh McCutcheon’s 11th year in charge of the Minnesota program the Gophers will once again play one of if not the toughest non-conference schedule in the nation. Then if it’s possible the schedule gets even harder once they start Big Ten play in the strongest conference in the nation. Minnesota will look to advance past last season’s Elite Eight finish and try and return to the Final Four for the first time since 2019.
The non-conference portion of the schedule features several tough road games, neutral site games, and marquis home games. Five of the Gophers six non-conference games could be against teams ranked in the top-15 of the nation.
August 26-27—Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge @ TCU
Minnesota will play in the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge on the road once again. After last year’s event in Madison, this year the Gophers and Badgers will head to Fort Worth. Minnesota opens their season on Friday the 26th when they face recent familiar foe Baylor Bears. Minnesota lost last season’s season opener in four sets to Baylor in Madison before facing them again in Madison in the NCAA Round of 16. The #5 seeded Bears took a 2-1 lead before Minnesota battled back to win the final two sets and advance to the Elite 8.
Saturday night the Gophers take on the host TCU Horned Frogs who Minnesota swept 3-0 a year ago.
August 31 @ Texas Longhorns
The Gophers will remain in the Lone Star State for a few days before taking on perennial power Texas in their gym on August 31st. It’s a return game from a year ago when the Longhorns came to the Pav as the #1 team in the nation and took a 3-1 win over Minnesota. The Longhorns lost only two games a season ago at Baylor and to Nebraska in the NCAA Elite 8.
September 4 vs Florida Gators
The Gophers will open their home season on September 4th when the Florida Gators come to the Pav. The Gophers lost a 3-1 match to the then #5 ranked Gators in Gainesville last season.
September 9-10—Big Ten/Pac 12 Challenge
It’s the Gophers turn to host the Big Ten/Pac-12 challenge this season as the Gophers will welcome two more perennial powers to the Pav as on Friday Minnesota hosts the Oregon Ducks and on Saturday the Gophers host Stanford Cardinal. The Gophers beat both teams in 2021 in Eugene.
September 15-17—Diet Coke Classic
The Gophers host their annual home multi-team event to close out the non-conference schedule as they welcome in the Pepperdine Waves on Thursday the 15th, before hosting Washington State Cougars on Saturday the 17th. The games versus Wazzu will feature the return of transfer middle hitter Shea Rubright to Minneapolis.
Big Ten Schedule:
Minnesota partially lucked out in the Big Ten schedule draw, but for every positive there is a concurrent negative. Minnesota only plays fellow Big Ten powerhouses Penn State and Nebraska once this season, but both will be on the road in Happy Valley and Lincoln. On the flip side Minnesota will only play Big Ten bottom feeders Indiana and Rutgers once each. There is no easing into the Big Ten either…
September 23rd @ Purdue Boilermakers
Minnesota opens Big Ten play against one of the toughest teams in the conference in the Purdue Boilermakers. Minnesota played Purdue just once a season ago losing 3-1 at the Pav. The Gophers and Boilermakers tied for third place in the Big Ten a year ago at 15-5 and both advanced to the Elite eight before losing.
September 25th vs Wisconsin Badgers
The Gophers return home to open Big Ten play against…the defending NCAA Champions. The Badgers have won three Big Ten titles in a row and while they lose a lot from their title team a year ago still are expected to compete for the Big Ten title once again with Minnesota, Purdue, Nebraska, Penn State and Ohio State.
September 28th vs Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern comes to the Pav for a mid-week game in which should be a fairly easy win for Minnesota, but could also be a huge letdown game after two big ones to start the conference season.
October 1 vs Iowa Hawkeyes
Iowa was awful a season ago and shouldn’t be much better as the Hawkeyes come in on homecoming weekend. This will be a 7 PM game at the Pav after the 11 am football game vs Purdue earlier in the day.
October 7 @ Michigan Wolverines
October 9 @ Michigan State Spartans
The Gophers head to the Mitten State for a pair of road games the following weekend. The Wolverines were sneaky good a season ago splitting the season series with the Gophers. The Spartans were not, and they lost one of their better players as middle blocker Naya Gross transferred to Minnesota for the 2022 season.
October 12 vs Ohio State Buckeyes
October 15 vs Illinois Fighting Illini
The Gophers return home against a pair of top end Big Ten teams. Ohio State was the surprise team in 2011 typing for third in the Big Ten at 15-5 with Minnesota and Purdue and advancing the the Sweet 16 before being knocked out of the tournament by Georgia Tech. Illinois did not have as a good a regular season as some years going 12-8 in Big Ten play, but turned it on in the post season upsetting defending NCAA Champion Kentucky on their home floor before falling to Nebraska in the Sweet 16.
October 19 @ Iowa Hawkeyes
The Gophers head to Iowa City to face Iowa for the second time this season in what should be a cakewalk.
October 22 vs Purdue Boilermakers
October 26 vs Michigan State Spartans
Purdue and Michigan State make their return trips to Minneapolis the following week.
October 29th @ Wisconsin Badgers
Another big game on the schedule as Minnesota makes the drive over to Madison for a big Saturday night tilt against the Badgers. Wisconsin will be coming off of another huge game against Nebraska, so Minnesota may be able to catch then napping.
November 4th vs Michigan Wolverines
November 6th @ Illinois Fighting Illini
An interesting set of paired Friday/Sunday games as Minnesota hosts Michigan before heading to Illinois. Both could easily be dangerous games if the Gophers aren’t playing their best.
November 11th vs Maryland Terrapins
November 13th vs Indiana Hoosiers
The Gophers close out their home portion of the schedule with a pair of games against teams they will only face once this season. Maryland started their season a perfect 13-0 last year even upsetting Wisconsin before Minnesota knocked them off that pedestal and they fell to a 7-13 conference record. Indiana was only 4-16 in Big Ten play. The Gophers should cruise in both matches honoring a great group of seniors in the process.
November 18 @ Penn State Nittany Lions
November 19th @ Rutgers Scarlet Knights
November 25th @ Ohio State Buckeyes
November 26th @ Nebraska Cornhuskers
Minnesota closes out the regular season with four straight road games, and three of the four against teams they expect to fight against for the Big Ten title. Minnesota will see Penn State, Rutgers and Nebraska for their only matchups of the season. Penn State is always a tough place to play, but with the retirement of long time Nittany Lions coach Ron Rose, who knows what will happen this season. Rutgers went 0-19 the the conference last year, so that’s a win.
The conference title could come down to the final weekend with Minnesota playing a pair of tough road games with a brutal flight in between. After a tough match in Columbus the Gophers get to fly from the eastern side of the conference to the westernmost team to Lincoln. Oh by the way—that is also Thanksgiving weekend. Meanwhile Wisconsin gets to do the opposite travel going from Lincoln Friday to Columbus Saturday.
The NCAA selection show is November 27th, and Minnesota barring something unexpected will look to host the first two rounds once again. The top four seeds will host the regionals with the Final Four this season in Omaha, Nebraska.
We will have a full season preview in August with a look at this year’s Gophers team.