Gophers look to rebound after rough performance vs. PSU

The Gophers will look to rebound from their disappointing loss to Penn State against Michigan midweek.

Minnesota outside hitter Daly Santana returns the ball against North Dakota State on Sept. 10 at the Sports Pavilion.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Minnesota outside hitter Daly Santana returns the ball against North Dakota State on Sept. 10 at the Sports Pavilion.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers volleyball team will look to move on from its loss to top-ranked Penn State last weekend when it plays Michigan on Wednesday at the Sports Pavilion.

No. 1 Penn State tossed the No. 10 Gophers aside in a straight-set win, which included a second set score of 25-8.

“We weren’t playing at our best, and we played a very good team,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “I told the team by the time we got to Sunday, we should be getting ready for the next match. … I think you have to have a fairly short memory in this conference.”

The Gophers struggled defensively against Penn State, specifically in receiving serves. The Nittany Lions targeted freshman libero Lindsey Lawmaster, who made five receiving errors.

Junior outside hitter Ashley Wittman said the team is better at receiving serves than it let on against Penn State.

“Our serve receive is solid. I know that it is,” Wittman said. “And it was rough on Saturday, you could tell that.”

Wittman said the two freshmen in the starting lineup, Lawmaster and outside hitter Daly Santana, were overwhelmed by the highest-ranked team and made mistakes. She said they will learn from it and adjust during practice this week before Michigan.

“We did play bad, and we have to learn from what our mistakes were and how we can’t let teams just walk all over us,” Wittman said.

McCutcheon said he agreed that the Gophers would work a lot in practice on passing skills.

“We can upgrade some things defensively … serving, receiving and figuring out the sideout rhythm,” McCutcheon said. “Certainly, Penn State did a nice job shutting down a few of the hitters, but I think that had to do a lot with our inability to receive serves. So if we can get the serving and passing back on track, I’m sure the rest will fall into place.”

The Wolverines may prove to be a good rebound.

Michigan has only received 21 votes for a national ranking. Overall, the team is 14-4 (2-2 Big Ten) with losses to No. 6 Nebraska, No. 17 Purdue, Marquette and Western Kentucky.

However, the Wolverines have some standout players.

Freshman libero Tiffany Morales earned this week’s Big Ten Defensive Player and Freshman of the Week awards. Unlike Minnesota, she handled 48 serves without a single error on the road in Nebraska and Iowa last weekend.

Junior outside hitter Lexi Erwin also earned a Player of the Week award in August. She leads her team in kills, averaging 3.81 a set.

“I think they’re going to be a really tough team. It’ll be really who shows up and who’s going to win the game,” Minnesota junior setter Alexandra Palmer said. “So I think being home and being in front of the fans will be what helps us out with our confidence again.”

Minnesota will be in the thick of three matches in eight days when it plays Michigan. But McCutcheon said his players aren’t tired.

“They got to rest a little bit on Sunday,” McCutcheon said. “We certainly weren’t out there too long on Saturday, so they’ll be OK.”

Wittman said she thinks there is a benefit to playing midweek games, even though the scheduling is “odd.”

“It gives you time in between both matches instead of playing back-to-back Friday-Saturday, so that can be nice too,” Wittman said.

The quick turnaround might help the Gophers because they’re ready to prove they’re a better team than the one that lost to Penn State, Wittman said.

“After Saturday night, everyone’s ready to get back in the gym, work, figure out what went wrong and how we can fix it for our next matches,” Wittman said. “[We want to] go out and give Michigan a good game.”