Minnesota earns three victories in Diet Coke Classic

Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Alexis Hart and Sarah Wilhite were named to the All-Tournament team for the Gophers.

Sophomore setter Samantha Veliger-Swenson serves the ball during a game against North Dakota State at the Sports Pavilion on Sept. 16, 2016, where the Gophers won 3-1. The game was a part of the Diet Coke Classic.

Maddy Fox

Sophomore setter Samantha Veliger-Swenson serves the ball during a game against North Dakota State at the Sports Pavilion on Sept. 16, 2016, where the Gophers won 3-1. The game was a part of the Diet Coke Classic.

Tommy Sletten

Minnesota had a strong showing in its home opener over the weekend, winning its three matches.

The matches — victories over North Dakota, Toledo and UW Green Bay — were the last three non-conference competitions for the Gophers before Big Ten play begins.

“It’s different playing at home for us, because of the crowd, the support and the energy in the building,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “It was great to be able to play through that and really connect with playing at home.”

No. 3 Minnesota (8-1) won its first match against North Dakota Friday with a score of 3-1. Senior middle blocker Hannah Tapp electrified the Sports Pavilion crowd of 4,271 with 20 kills on the night, followed by senior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite with 14.

While Minnesota cruised through the first set, the second set was not as straightforward. Minnesota had a litany of hitting errors, and dropped the set 25-21. Despite the setback, the Gophers easily won the following two sets, with scores of 25-20 and 25-18, respectively.

Minnesota did not let the next morning’s early 10 a.m. start impede its momentum. The Gophers fired on all cylinders against Toledo and swept the Rockets in straight sets.

Minnesota stifled its opponent in the first set, dominating Toledo with a score of 25-14 and hitting a match-high .500.

Minnesota saw more competition from Toledo in the second set, but a hitting error by the Rockets and a kill from Tapp ended the set in favor of the Gophers 25-22.

Minnesota dominated the final set 25-14. A kill from redshirt sophomore middle blocker Taylor Morgan and a Toledo service error gave Minnesota the set and match victory.

Minnesota trounced Green Bay in the final match of the tournament Saturday evening and added another sweep to their season total.

Morgan finished the match with 10 kills, tied for second on the team.

“From a young age, I’ve been coming to these games, praying, hoping, that I would be able to come here and play volleyball,” Morgan said. “It’s great being here with such a great team. It’s just awesome. I’m living the dream.”

Minnesota started the match on a 6-3 run before Green Bay bounced back to tie the set at 10, but it didn’t last long. Junior libero Dalianliz Rosado tallied an ace, and kills from Wilhite and freshman outside hitter Alexis Hart closed out the set in a 25-21 Gophers victory.

The Gophers then hit .500 in the second set en route to a 25-13 victory.

Minnesota and Green Bay traded points early on in the third set. It was not until halfway through that the Gophers took their first lead. Minnesota won the set 25-21, and the match 3-0.

Sophomore setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson was named the Diet Coke Classic tournament MVP, while Hart and Wilhite were also named to the All-Tournament Team.

“I’m excited to get going into Big Ten play,” Wilhite said. “I think everyone is going to be coming after us, but just worrying about our side and approaching [the game] the same way every time is key for us.”