Women travel to Indiana, leave with a pair of wins

The Gophers beat Purdue in five sets and beat Indiana in three this weekend.

by David Nelson

On Friday and Saturday night, the Gophers volleyball team traveled to two separate schools in Indiana and knocked off both opponents.

With six other Big Ten teams ranked in the top 20 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll and five of those on the Gophers’ schedule for the last eight games of the conference season, the road wins were crucial.

“Any win on the road in the Big Ten is really awesome,” junior outside hitter Adrianna Nora said. “And getting two in a row definitely helps out our confidence.”

The Gophers’ first match was a five-set marathon against No. 16 Purdue. Minnesota came out sluggish in the first set, failing to produce against a stout Purdue defense.

“It felt a little bit like we were letting them dictate what’s going on in the match,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “And we just talked about how we needed to take more control of the things that we could. The athletes chose to get in that mode.”

That mode helped turn an early deficit into a 2-1 lead.

Then, the Boilermakers went on a run of their own and tied up the match with a win in the fourth set.

The Gophers rallied, however, hitting an impressive 55.6 percent in the final set, and cruised to a 3-2 win in five sets.

“I feel every team has ups and downs,” sophomore outside hitter Daly Santana said. “It’s part of the game. So I think the difference was that we didn’t think about the first set. We just made some changes and kept going.”

The weekend was uphill from there against Indiana. Minnesota swept the Hoosiers in a three-set rout, winning the last set by 13 points.

The Gophers’ average winning margin per set was just less than nine points, due in large part to their 41 percent hitting percentage.

“I think we’re just practicing really hard to do that in the game,” Santana said. “We got into a good rhythm as a team. We just kept going after the ball, and I think that was good.”

While the road weekend was a success, McCutcheon said he was impressed with the progress his team continues to show on a week-to-week basis.

“That’s always the goal for us,” he said.

The Gophers return to action Friday at home against Iowa. Though players are happy to be home next weekend, they understand the importance of these road trips.

“[It’s important], especially when thinking about moving in the [NCAA] tournament and how a lot of the weekends we have to play back-to-back games,” Nora said. “So having today as a feeling for it and a taste of it really helps us, but getting two wins on top of it is awesome.”