Gophers fall on the road against No. 1 Penn State

Minnesota became the first team to win a set playing aganist Penn State.

Emily Polglaze

Despite losing for the first time in 10 matches, Minnesota was able to push the No. 1 team in the country to extra sets on the road. 
 
The No. 21 Gophers (9-3) handed No. 1 Penn State University its first two set losses of the season Saturday night but lost in the fifth set 15-12.
 
“The fact that we battled against a good team is encouraging,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “It’s nice to compete, and tonight gave our team some opportunities to grow and develop.”
 
The Gophers arrived at University Park and faced a team that had won 36 straight sets to open the season, and the Nittany Lions built on that streak in the first two sets. 
 
In the first, Penn State got out to an early lead that they held until a kill from junior Paige Tapp knotted the two teams at 12-12. 
 
The Gophers held on to the tie through 14, but Penn State rallied back with a four-point run. 
 
The Nittany Lions went up 22-18, but Paige Tapp delivered back-to-back kills that brought the Gophers within two. 
 
A timeout worked to Penn State’s advantage, and they took the set from there.
 
The Gophers trailed the entire second set, with Penn State taking an early 9-4 lead. 
 
The home team would remain in control throughout, and the Gophers fell in the second 25-16. 
 
Although they were down 2-0, junior Hannah Tapp said Minnesota didn’t feel defeated going into the break. 
 
“We trusted what we had, and we knew we had more control than what we displayed in those first two sets,” junior Hannah Tapp said. “We knew we could execute at a much higher level.”
 
Minnesota came back in the second half of the match with two straight set victories.
 
The Gophers got an early lead in the third set, but Penn State tied it at 9-9 off of a service ace. 
 
The Gophers capitalized on the Nittany Lions’ attack errors and blocks from four different players to extend their lead 19-14.
 
Penn State added two more points, but an ace from senior captain Daly Santana closed the match 25-19 in Minnesota’s favor, which gave Penn State their first set loss of the
season.
 
The Gophers fought again in the fourth set, trailing early but fighting back to take the lead.
 
Penn State answered back, tying the score at 17-17, but the Gophers moved ahead and led for the rest of the set. 
 
Santana had three consecutive kills for the 25-20 match-tying victory, forcing an extra set.
 
In the deciding set, the Nittany Lions took an early lead, but the Gophers stayed within two points until they tied at 9-9 off of a Hannah Tapp kill.
 
Penn State took the score to 11-9. The Gophers used a timeout, but Penn State stayed in front and won the set 15-12 to remain undefeated.
 
In the loss, Minnesota had fewer kills and assists than Penn State, but they had more digs and blocks, as well as a higher hitting percentage.
 
“Instead of waiting to see what the other team has, we need to come out with a better mindset,” sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Goehner said. “We need to start right from the beginning instead of getting going later.”