Gophers volleyball loses 3-2 to Nebraska

Minnesota had a 2-0 lead, but looked overmatched in the final three sets against the No. 5 Huskers.

Charlie Armitz

The No. 14 Gophers volleyball team lost in five sets to No. 5 Nebraska on Saturday night, effectively ending its chances of winning a Big Ten title.

Minnesota (11-6, 4-4 Big Ten) won a dramatic first set and looked impressive in the second in front of a Williams Arena crowd of 9,354. After the intermission, however, the Gophers had no answer for the Huskers’ balanced attack, and eventually fell 28-30, 19-25, 25-10, 25-12, 15-11.

“It was the match that we thought would happen, but just a different result,” Minnesota interim head coach Laura Bush said. “We didn’t expect to fade as much as we did in the third and fourth set.”

The Gophers had more hitting errors (25) than kills (24) during the last three sets. In the first two sets, they had 33 kills and 11 errors.

Ashely Wittman led Minnesota with 22 kills, but had 11 errors and hit just .164. Katherine Harms, a key force in the Gophers’ recent stretch of 11 consecutive sets won, had 14 kills and 12 errors, hitting .044.

“I wouldn’t say it was a bad night,” Wittman said. “Our communication and effort was slowly decreasing in the third and fourth [sets], and we weren’t able to put passes on [setter Mia Tabberson]’s head.”

Minnesota’s subpar passing allowed Nebraska to set up its blocking schemes to near-perfection — the Huskers had 13 blocks in the last three sets to the Gophers’ two.

Bush compared the match to the Gophers’ five-set home loss to Illinois on Sept. 23, which also featured a series of Minnesota errors late in the match. Illinois and Nebraska are the only two undefeated teams in the Big Ten at 8-0.

“I’m really happy with our performance in two and a half sets,” Bush said. “Now it’s just [about] putting together a complete game against a top team.”