Gophers’ Big Ten winning streak continues

No. 3 Minnesota has won its last 10 matches of the season, nine of which have come during Big Ten play.

Junior Alexis Hart celebrates after the gophers scored against Iowa on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Maturi Pavilion.

Image by Courtney Deutz

Junior Alexis Hart celebrates after the gophers scored against Iowa on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Maturi Pavilion.

by David Mullen

A surge after a slow start kept the volleyball powerhouse undefeated in conference play.

No. 3 Minnesota (15-2, 9-0) continued its hot streak as the Gophers have now won nine-straight Big Ten matches and 10 matches overall, following their sweep of Iowa (12-8, 4-5 Big Ten) Friday.

“This team shows a lot of character in a lot of different ways,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

Although Minnesota’s play was not perfect, the Gophers got better as the match went on — resulting in another sweep.

The opening set was streaky and competitive for the Gophers, as they went on to win the set 25-23 over the Hawkeyes.

The set began with an ace by senior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson. From there, the match went back-and-forth, as it was tied at 5-5. The Hawkeyes went on a 7-2 run and put the Gophers in unfamiliar territory.

“They came at us right out of the gate,” McCutcheon said.

Trailing 12-7, Minnesota answered by going on a 12-5 run of their own and took the lead 19-17. The run was led by sophomore Stephanie Samedy, who had three kills throughout the streak.

Iowa, however, fought until the last point. The Hawkeyes pulled within a point to make the score 24-23. 

After a service error by Iowa, the Gophers took the set and took an early 1-0 match lead. 

“The fact that we can move on from those bruises really shows a lot of maturity from this group,” McCutcheon said. 

Redshirt junior middle blocker Taylor Morgan made her presence felt. She had a team-leading six kills in the first set.

The middle set was in favor of the Gophers. They built on their momentum from the first set into the second. 

The Gophers took a commanding 7-0 lead. Junior Alexis Hart had three kills, while Morgan had two kills off commanding spikes.

Iowa went on to score its first points of the match as the Gophers led 14-7.

Although Iowa made the match more competitive than a blowout, the Hawkeyes trailed by at least five points in the set. Minnesota led 20-15.

The Gophers eventually won the middle set 25-18 after a dominating nine kills by Hart. 

“[Morgan] did a really good job in the middle, and [Seliger-Swenson] did a good job at dishing the set,” Hart said.

The final set, similar to the first, was neck-and-neck. But Iowa took a quick 7-4 lead over the Gophers.

“We just needed to play Gopher volleyball and do what we do best,” Morgan said.  

A resilient Minnesota team did not back down. After a few exchanged points, the Gophers went on an 8-2 run, giving the home team the 15-10 lead.

“We were just saying to each other ‘one point at a time’ and not really focusing on the score much,” Hart said. “It was more about bringing our energy up.”

The match stayed close until the very end as the Gophers completed the sweep after a 25-20 third set victory.

Hart led the Gophers with 13 kills in the match, while Seliger-Swenson, again, distributed a well-balanced attack. Six different players had kills and two had double-digit kills.

“[Seliger-Swenson] was dishing the rock pretty much … she just does what she does,” Morgan said. 

The Gophers will return to the Pavilion Saturday as No. 5 Nebraska travels to Minneapolis looking for an upset in a rematch from two weeks ago.