After winning the first match of the weekend, Gophers fall to No. 1 Penn State

Minnesota defeated Rutgers 3-0 but lost to Penn State 3-1.

Freshman opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy practices with a weighted ball.

Easton Green, Daily File Photo

Freshman opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy practices with a weighted ball.

Erik Nelson

A crowd of 5,343 people filled the seats and bleachers at Maturi Pavillion on Saturday night with home fans hoping No. 8 Minnesota could upset No. 1 Penn State.

However, the crowd’s energy and freshman Stephanie Samedy’s 22 kills weren’t enough for Minnesota to win its final match of the regular season.

Penn State (29-1, 19-1 Big Ten) defeated Minnesota (26-5, 15-5 Big Ten) 3-1. It was Minnesota’s second loss in three matches. The Gophers won their first match of the weekend against Rutgers (5-27, 0-20 Big Ten) 3-0. 

“Our team competed hard. We battled,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “Everyone wants to finish with a win, but you don’t always get what you want. What you hope for is that at least you’re going to compete.”

Penn State won the first two sets, outscoring Minnesota 29-27 and 25-20. The Gophers won the third set 26-24, but the Nittany Lions fought back to win the fourth set and the match 25-20.

Middle blocker Haleigh Washington led the offensive attack for Penn State with 21 kills, while outside hitter Ali Frantti had 17 digs. 

Samedy was one of three Gophers to tally 10 kills or more, with her game-leading 22 kills. Outside hitter Alexis Hart had 19, while middle blocker Regan Pittman had 10. Outside hitter Alyssa Goehner had 14 digs.

Samedy said the crowd motivated the team throughout the match. 

“It was awesome,” Samedy said. “The fans were really supportive [and] behind our back the whole time.”

After the match, Minnesota honored its senior class: Goehner, Maddie Beal, Molly Lohman and Dalianliz Rosado. Each player received a rose, and the senior class was honored in a video featuring their teammates. In a post-game speech, McCutcheon thanked the fans and said the best was yet to come for the Gophers.

“Some of these lessons aren’t particularly easy to learn. We get to do it in front of thousands of people,” McCutcheon said. “We don’t enjoy losing. No one wants to come out here and have that be the outcome, but because of our youth and because we’ve played against some good teams, we’ll learn a few things.”

On Friday night, Minnesota defeated Rutgers (5-27, 0-20 Big Ten) 3-0. Minnesota won each set by more than six points.

Hart and Samedy each had 14 kills, while Rosado had 13 digs. Both Rutgers and Minnesota had six blocks. 

“Our team did really well at communicating, so I felt like that gave us [motivation],” Hart said. “The crowd [is] always great. It was pretty close to being sold out, so it was great to see a lot of people come out and support us.”