Peniata solid in return as Gophers pick up midweek victory over Northern Iowa

Minnesota earned its third win of the season against a Panthers team that has been tough in past years.

Mark Heise

With a mixture of offensive and defensive dominance combined with just a hint of weakness, Minnesota’s volleyball team managed to cook up a big win in Rochester Wednesday.

The Gophers were overpowering against Northern Iowa at times but weren’t invincible, as lapses cost them two leads throughout the match.

Coach Mike Hebert went so far as to call one of those lapses “an avalanche”.

“We were making errors hitting and passing, and we just fell apart for a while,” he said. “We weren’t happy and had to make some adjustments.”

Despite the lapses, Minnesota won the four-game match, 30-16, 30-22, 25-30, 30-21, over the Panthers (7-5 overall).

The Gophers (3-4 overall) started off slow in the first game, trailing 1-4 before finding their groove. Senior outside hitter Kyla Roehrig provided a boost for her team recording five kills during a 17-5 run that sent Minnesota to a runaway 30-16 win.

The Gophers kept rolling in the second game and jumped out to 14-6 lead.

But Minnesota fell apart, allowing Northern

Iowa to go on a 10-0 run, thanks in part to five

Gophers errors. Trailing 16-14, Minnesota needed

a spark.

Junior middle blocker Jessy Jones was that

spark for the Gophers, recording three kills and a block as Minnesota climbed back to take the game 30-22.

“Jones has turned into a clutch player for us,” senior middle blocker Meredith Nelson said. “When we need a kill, we can always count on her to make a play for us.”

Nelson recorded six kills in the second game, finishing with a total of 13 in the match.

Senior outside hitter Meghan Cumpston jump-started the Gophers’ offense in the third game, getting three of her five kills early on. The Panthers took control after a 4-4 tie however, taking a 22-13 lead, and never allowing Minnesota back into the game.

After allowing Northern Iowa to keep its hopes alive with the game-three loss, the Gophers seemed determined to finish things off quickly.

Minnesota led 7-5 early and added to its lead with two separate 6-1 runs to take a 25-16 lead. Roehrig played a huge game, chalking up nine kills to push the Gophers past Northern Iowa, 30-21.

“We really got our rhythm back in the fourth game and that was key for us,” senior libero Malama Peniata said. “We needed to regain control of the match, and we managed to do that.”

Peniata was a huge help to the Gophers in her first match of the season after sitting out six games because of an NCAA rule violation. She recorded 41 digs on the night, the first time any Minnesota player had recorded 40 or more digs in a single match since Paula Gentil accomplished the feat on Dec. 10, 2004.

“(Being back) was kind of weird at first,” Peniata said. “But my team trusted me and I felt confident in my play.”