Gophers swept by Illini on road

The team’s loss on Wednesday was its second in conference play.

Rachel Timmerman

The Gophers fought the Illini in their first conference road game Wednesday night but came out with a loss.

Minnesota lost in three sets in its only meeting with Illinois this season, and the win was Illinois’ first victory at home against the Gophers since 2009.

Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon said the team battled in the first two sets, but in the third, it became a challenge.

The second set ended in an intense back-and-forth rally going into extra points, but the Gophers dropped the contest 32-30.

Junior outside hitter Daly Santana said the team’s effort was there, but it struggled to finish strong.

“We weren’t able to turn points when we needed to,” McCutcheon said.

The Gophers also made a few errors receiving the serve.

“At times it broke down,” sophomore setter Katie Schau said. “But the passers did a good job hanging in there with some tough serves.”

Santana said the serve receive held up OK, with communication being a strong point.

Minnesota made a few lineup changes in the third set, but the efforts were unsuccessful.

McCutcheon said Illinois’ libero did a good job and its defense forced Minnesota’s hitters to adjust.

Illinois controlled the match all the way through, leading in kills, assists and digs.

This marks the second consecutive loss for the Gophers, who fell to Penn State last weekend after recording a 10-match winning streak.

Traveling to Champaign, Ill., was sort of a reunion for McCutcheon, as Illinois head coach Kevin Hambly and McCutcheon played together at Brigham Young University. Hambly served as the best man at McCutcheon’s wedding.

“We have a lot of respect for each other,” McCutcheon said. “[But] it’s business as usual.”

Minnesota has a lot to learn from this match as it travels to Northwestern this Sunday.

Santana said the team is going to prepare mentally and work on finishing strong.

“Anytime we lose, we learn a lot from it,” Schau said. “If anything, it gives us some fire for our next game.”