Gophers down OSU

Minnesota will take on No. 3 Penn State in its next match on Saturday.

David Nelson

Welcome back to Big Ten play, Minnesota.

In the Gophers’ first conference contest of the season, Ohio State pushed Minnesota all night long.

Although Minnesota dominated both of its contests against the Buckeyes last season — winning in straight sets — the Gophers struggled to escape the Buckeyes’ onslaught Wednesday.

But despite Ohio State’s effort to rewrite the script, Minnesota emerged victorious with a final score of 3-2.

“We’re happy to win,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “I don’t think it was a clean performance for us. I think we were struggling all night.”

Ohio State picked apart Minnesota defensively and went on a 10-4 run during the early stages of the first set.

McCutcheon said the team’s inexperience played a factor in the struggle.

“A few of those shots that were going down last week weren’t going down this week,” McCutcheon said. “So we decided, ‘Well, we’re going to try even harder’ … and then of course, we’re making more and more errors.”

The Gophers struggled offensively, hitting at just a .034 percentage in the first set.

“In the first set, we were playing as six individuals,” sophomore middle blocker Paige Tapp said. “And I think that we really worked on coming together as a team.”

Minnesota picked up the slack after the break. Led by junior Daly Santana’s 17 kills, the Gophers surged offensively and ended up killing 22.5 percent of their attempts.

“I think I was just trying to be consistent throughout the whole match,” Santana said. “And [I tried] to help my teammates in every way possible.”

Senior Adrianna Nora contributed 13 kills, while sophomore Hannah Tapp had 10. Sophomore Sarah Wilhite added a triple-double.

The Buckeyes’ tenacity stayed high despite Minnesota’s attack, but the Gophers’ block was on fire, totaling 19 team blocks in five sets.

“We’ve definitely worked really hard on our discipline at the net,” Paige Tapp said. “Knowing what’s going on before it happens … I think that’s really helped us.”

McCutcheon said there are still areas for improvement before the Gophers take on No. 3 Penn State on Saturday. However, he said the fashion in which the team won revealed some of the spirit the youthful team holds.

“The fact that we were able to weather that storm and be able to find a way to win — for our younger kids — I think that showed some character maybe beyond their years,” McCutcheon said.