Gophers snap three-match streak at home

Minnesota evened its record in Big Ten play to 3-3 on the season thus far.

Rachel Timmerman

The Gophers returned to their home court over the weekend to take on Maryland and Rutgers, ending their three-match losing streak in the process.

Minnesota defeated both opponents, which have yet to earn a victory in Big Ten play.

The Gophers came out swinging Friday night, beating Maryland in three quick sets.

“It’s a tough league, and you’ll take a win wherever you can get them right now,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

The lineup over the weekend wasn’t what Gophers fans were used to — freshman Molly Lohman played middle blocker while sophomore Paige Tapp moved to right side.

McCutcheon said senior Adrianna Nora, who normally plays right side, “wasn’t at 100 percent” and it was in her best interest to give her some rest.

The switch allowed Paige Tapp to play with her twin sister, Hannah Tapp, in the front row.

“There was one point where it was Hannah, Sarah [Wilhite] and I up there blocking, and it was just a cool moment to take in,” Paige Tapp said.

Paige Tapp also played all the way around both nights, instead of having a defensive specialist play in the back row.

McCutcheon said she did a great job defensively in the back row.

“It’s great for us that Paige was able to come in and contribute in such a big way,” McCutcheon said.

She continued to play on the right side Saturday night against Rutgers.

“[With] a little different lineup, I think the team did really well,” McCutcheon said. “It’s nice to develop this young group.”

The Gophers continued their success Saturday, defeating Rutgers in three sets.

The first set was a strong one for Minnesota, as the team held Rutgers to single digits.

But the Gophers struggled in the next two sets, playing down to Rutgers’ level.

McCutcheon said the team had good execution in the first set, but in the second, it started forcing shots to get back in rhythm.

“All of a sudden, it was a little bit more of a battle than we expected,” McCutcheon said.

Sophomore setter Katie Schau said the Gophers brought the errors on themselves, and they had to deal with working out of them.

Despite the few setbacks Saturday, the Gophers were consistent with blocking throughout the weekend.

Minnesota out-blocked Maryland 8-4 and Rutgers 5-4.

The Gophers also had a season-high 14 aces in the match Saturday.

On Friday night, Lohman led the Gophers with six block assists against Maryland.

“She was nice and efficient,” McCutcheon said Friday. “She’s going to be a great player for us, and I think tonight was indicative of that.”

The two wins this weekend helped Minnesota gain confidence entering its matches against highly ranked Wisconsin on Wednesday and Saturday night.

“Whatever happens Wednesday night, we’re going to have another chance at it Saturday,” Schau said. “The good and bad, we’ll be able to learn from them and apply them right away.”

But for now, the Gophers are happy to be back on the winning side of things, McCutcheon said.

“Playing in the Big Ten, it’s really competitive,” Paige Tapp said. “Every win has to be celebrated.”