Gophers drop second match of the season

Gophers junior middle blocker Ariana Filho returns the ball to Dayton September 4 at the Sports Pavillion.

Mark Vancleave

Gophers junior middle blocker Ariana Filho returns the ball to Dayton September 4 at the Sports Pavillion.

Lindsay Guentzel

Going into SaturdayâÄôs match against San Diego, the 12th ranked Gophers were making it look easy. Minnesota didnâÄôt drop a set in two wins over UC-Santa Barbara and San Diego State in the USD/San Diego State Tournament, and took the first two sets against the only ranked team in the tournament, No. 23 San Diego. ThatâÄôs when things started to fall apart for the young Minnesota team. The Gophers, who came into the match 10-1, lost the next two matches to San Diego, forcing a fifth setâÄîsomething the team has only experienced once this season during their loss to Northern Iowa on Sept. 4. âÄúI definitely donâÄôt think we were at a disadvantage,âÄù junior Ariana Filho said. âÄúAny five-set game is fun but also challenging because itâÄôs longer and itâÄôs a lot more pressure.âÄù A physical team with five seniors, San Diego battled to a 17-15 fifth-set victory, handing the Gophers their second loss this season and a lesson well learned. âÄúIt shows us that we can continue to play hard even when itâÄôs five sets,âÄù Filho said. âÄúWe can walk away learning a lot of lessons about our intensity and how we need to make sure we are keeping our intensity up even after we may be up two games, because any team is good enough to come back in the third set.âÄù For the second week in a row, the Gophers were without senior captain Lauren Gibbemeyer, who injured her wrist on Sept. 8. Head coach Mike Hebert said her status hasnâÄôt changed and that sheâÄôs still week-to-week. Looking at the loss in a characteristically-positive light, Hebert said pre-season matches are important for the Gophers âÄî a team heavy with freshmen and sophomores âÄî simply for the playing time. âÄúYou canâÄôt coach experience,âÄù he said. âÄúYoung players have to go through a series of matches like this and learn how to survive.âÄù Filho and freshman Ashley Wittman both made the All-Tournament team, WittmanâÄôs second such honor this season. The Gophers started the¬¬ tournament off with a strong showing against UC-Santa Barbara on Friday, sweeping the Gauchos in three setsâÄî25-12, 25-23, 25-16. Wittman and sophomore Tabitha Love combined for 17 kills, 13 digs and six blocks, while Filho tied a career-high with seven blocks. Wittman once again led the Gophers on Saturday, finishing with 10 kills and six digs, while freshman Tori Dixon had a match-high five blocks and five kills against San Diego State. Finishing the pre-season with a 10-2 record, the Gophers now head into a conference schedule that includes three other teams in the top-25: Penn State (2), Illinois (5) and Michigan (21). âÄúYouâÄôve got to be able to hold yourself together a little bit tighter than we did [this weekend],âÄù Hebert said. The Gophers open up the Big Ten on Sept. 24 at Michigan State and head to Ann Arbor to play Michigan the next day.