Minnesota splits weekend with Iowa and Nebraska

Adrianna Nora had a strong showing for the Gophers over the weekend.

Minnesota middle blocker Adrianna Nora spikes the ball against Nebraska at the Sports Pavilion on Sunday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota middle blocker Adrianna Nora spikes the ball against Nebraska at the Sports Pavilion on Sunday.

David Nelson

In a contest between the No. 9 and No. 11 teams in the nation, the winner was the team that made the biggest plays in the biggest moments.

On Sunday, that team was Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers defeated Minnesota in a five-set marathon match and moved two matches ahead of the Gophers in the Big Ten standings.

While the Gophers stifled Nebraska’s impressive offense for most of the match, their inability to get out to early leads in sets ultimately cost them the match.

“We played well enough to win,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “It’s just one of those things in the Big Ten — sometimes you play well and you come up short.”

A lot of that quality play came from junior outside hitter Adrianna Nora.

Nora was instrumental for her team over the weekend in a win over Iowa on Friday night and in the close loss to Nebraska on Sunday.

“When I was a sub, I’d be a lot more nervous and go back to my old fundamentals and just trust my own instincts,” Nora said. “As soon as I let go of that selfishness and listened to what Hugh was saying … everything fell into place.”

Nora has 81 kills in her last six matches, including 18 kills in the match against the Cornhuskers.

“She hits a really heavy ball. I don’t think teams are ready for that.” senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman said. “I think they’re mostly focused on our outsides and our middle.”

Nora was second on the team in kills against Nebraska behind Wittman, who finished with 19.

In order to counteract Nebraska’s own offensive attack, Gophers fans saw a lot of junior Morgan Bohl and sophomore Lindsey Lawmaster, two defensive specialists.

“We’ve been doing that the last couple of weeks,” McCutcheon said. “We think it’s been effective for us.”

The Gophers’ plan worked, as they led Nebraska in hitting percentage, but they faltered in the fifth set.

Nora made a few errors in that set but said she was happy her coaches and teammates had the faith to keep her in.

She led the team with 14 kills in the match against Iowa on Friday night. Minnesota had more kills and a better hitting percentage en route to a sweep of the Hawkeyes.

“I thought some of the phases of the game we did quite well and some of the other phases of the game we were lacking,” McCutcheon said.

Nora said she’s gained a lot of confidence lately, and it’s showed. She’s averaged 13.5 kills per match over the last six

“She wants the ball, and I think that’s helped her confidence,” senior setter Alexandra Palmer said. “She asks for [the ball], she knows what she can do with it, and that’s just huge.”