Schedule does no favors as Gophers settle for 2nd

Minnesota played two ranked teams in one day, going 1-1.

Minnesota outside hitter Katherine Harms plays against North Dakota State on Sept. 10 at the Sports Pavillion.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Minnesota outside hitter Katherine Harms plays against North Dakota State on Sept. 10 at the Sports Pavillion.

by Megan Ryan

The Gophers volleyball team placed second at the Golden Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday and Saturday with a 2-1 record.

No. 10 Minnesota bookended its tournament with straight-set wins against No. 20 Dayton and unranked Tulsa, but it suffered a five-set loss in between to No. 19 Kansas State.

Kansas State continued its undefeated season at 12-0 to win the meet.

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon said the unforgiving schedule may have affected his team’s performance.

“The scheduling was certainly not in our favor. I’m not saying that’s the reason we lost,” McCutcheon said. “But as the match went on, you could see that we were getting a little bit gassed.”

Heading into the Kansas State match Friday, Minnesota had already played three sets, winning 25-21, 25-21 and 25-16 against Dayton. Then it played five more sets against the Wildcats — the first five-set match of the season for the Gophers.

The Gophers ultimately lost 25-13, 22-25, 25-16, 19-25 and 7-15.

Kansas State may have had an advantage as the match progressed into the fourth and fifth sets. The Wildcats played only one match per day, starting Thursday, as did host Tulsa. Both Dayton and Minnesota had to play two matches Friday.

Junior setter Alexandra Palmer said her team had the ability to defeat Kansas State despite the fatigue factor.

“It’s definitely challenging having to play back-to-back like that on Friday, but it was not completely impossible,” Palmer said. “We were right there, and we could have closed out that match. … We know that we can push through that if we are in that predicament again.”

Palmer said her team did a good job of bouncing back from Friday’s loss and beating Tulsa on Saturday. Minnesota dispatched the hosts quickly, 25-22, 25-17 and 25-19.

Palmer made the all-tournament team along with senior outside hitter Katherine Harms. She led the team in assists against Kansas State and Tulsa with 29 and 42 sets, respectively. The junior trades setting duties with senior Mia Tabberson, who led Minnesota in assists against Dayton with 22.

“We both are very similar on the court. We run [a] similar offense, and I think having those similarities is helpful for our attackers to not lose any momentum,” Palmer said. “We will do whatever is best for the team — that’s our main focus.”

Senior middle blocker Dana Knudsen had her best weekend of the season. She led the Gophers with 16 blocks over the weekend — nine against Dayton, three against Kansas State and four against Tulsa. She also had a match-high hitting percentage of .625 in the win against Tulsa.

“I felt a lot more comfortable,” Knudsen said. “Coming in and trying to learn [the new system] real quick has been hard. But I think this weekend it really clicked.”

Knudsen said the Golden Hurricane Classic functioned as a solid last preparation before the Gophers start Big Ten conference play away at Illinois and Northwestern this weekend.

“We learned a lot even though we didn’t come out 3-0 … which will help as we take into conference next weekend,” Knudsen said.