After missing the bulk of the 2021 season with an abdominal injury, Gophers outside hitter Taylor Landfair was rewarded for her resounding comeback in 2022 by being named the Big Ten Volleyball Player of the Year on Wednesday.
Landfair, a redshirt sophomore, became the ninth Gopher to win the award since it was introduced in 1983, and the third in a row after Stephanie Samedy won it back-to-back the past two seasons.
"She is a rare talent," her coach, Hugh McCutcheon, said at a news conference ahead of the NCAA tournament on Tuesday. "On top of that her ability to make change and learn is really an important part of it. ... She isn't satisfied with just having the talent."
Landfair finished the regular season first in the Big Ten in kills (4.43 per set) and points (4.99 per set). She totaled 443 kills on 1,133 attempts and in a testament to her all-around development added 23 aces, 167 digs and 65 blocks, which was good for the third-best mark on the Gophers.
It was a season where she excelled while also having to remember what it felt like to play in big matches, to get her body ready for grueling weekends and to lead.
"I really appreciate it because my team trusts me to be able to put that much of a load on my shoulders," she said last week. "I take advantage of it as much as I can because I know how hard it can be to take on that load, but I am just so grateful for it."
Four of her teammates also were recognized as the conference announced its regular-season awards.
Junior setter Melani Shaffmaster and freshman middle blocker Carter Booth were both named first-team All-Big Ten along with Landfair. Libero CC McGraw was named second-team and Booth and Mckenna Wucherer made the freshman team.
Shaffmaster finished second in the conference in assists at 10.48 per set while also bringing a unique defensive element to the position — she finished second on the team in digs (275) and blocks (80) and fifth in kills (78).
Booth had an explosive freshman season. She finished fourth in the conference in hitting percentage at .379 and sixth in blocks with 1.41 per set. She led the Gophers in blocks with 121 and her 172 kills were third behind only Landfair and Jenna Wenaas.
For McGraw it is her third All-Big Ten honor after making first team in 2019 and 2021, the graduate senior moved into third on the Gophers all-time list for digs this season and led the team with 331.
Wucherer, who missed time throughout the season while battling injuries, finished second on the Gophers in points per set (3.10) and kills per set (2.79).
Minnesota finished the regular season 20-8 and tied for third in the Big Ten at 15-5.
The Gophers open the NCAA tournament on Friday at Maturi Pavilion against Southeastern Louisiana at 7 p.m. The other matchup in their bracket is Northern Iowa vs. Florida State at 4:30 p.m. First-round winners play Saturday at 7 p.m.