Minnesota rallies for comeback victory

The Gophers lost the first set but won the next three against Northwestern.

Outside hitter Alyssa Goehner blocks the ball on Wednesday at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers won 3-1 against Northwestern.

Juliet Farmer

Outside hitter Alyssa Goehner blocks the ball on Wednesday at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers won 3-1 against Northwestern.

Rachel Timmerman

The Gophers have struggled in conference play this season.

But the team defeated Northwestern in four sets Wednesday night, its second victory in the last three matches. It’s a sign that things might be turning around.

After four matches on the road, the Gophers returned to the Sports Pavilion for the victory.

“It feels good to play at home,” sophomore Sarah Wilhite said. “We’ve been away for so long.”

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon agreed and said the team needed the victory.

The Gophers opened up the match with a missed serve, but the set remained tight until halfway through.

Minnesota started losing momentum and took a timeout after it fell behind 15-12, but the team wasn’t able to change much and lost the first set.

When the Gophers’ play started slowing down in the second set, McCutcheon subbed setter Erica Handley in for Katie Schau.

“The great thing about having two really talented setters is that if one of them is not having a great night, we’ve got a plan B,” McCutcheon said.

Freshman Molly Lohman also came in to help bring Minnesota back in the match.

“It was nice that Molly was able to come in and be so effective,” McCutcheon said.

The changes seemed to have worked in the Gophers favor, as they came back halfway through the set and flipped the momentum of the match.

“Erica came in and took control,” McCutcheon said. “[She] did a really nice job just changing the rhythm and the flow [of the offense].”

After the half, the Gophers took over the third set, winning 25-18. They came out swinging in the fourth set, looking to take the match from Northwestern.

And that’s exactly what they did, turning the table on their opponents, who had defeated them earlier in the season.

McCutcheon said the team’s offense had great distribution throughout the match.

“[I’m] very happy with the way the offense was working tonight,” he said. “[We] got more people involved, and that was the way we were able to create space.”

Despite the various lineup changes, Minnesota’s offense remained strong with 63 kills.

“We have lots of players that can play at lots of positions,” junior outside hitter Daly Santana said. “We can all switch around and get the job done, [and] I’m really proud of this group for doing that.”

Santana and Wilhite led the team in kills with 21 and 18, respectively.

Wilhite was able to take some swings Wednesday from the back row.

“Having Sarah in the back row and being able to have that added dimension for our offense was significant,” McCutcheon said.