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The Minnesota Daily

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Gophers near end of season

Minnesota has just two matches remaining in the regular season.

The Gophers have only two matches to prove they have what it takes to be in the NCAA tournament.

“Every match is critical at this point,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

To start, Minnesota will play Ohio State on the road Wednesday night.

Sophomore middle blocker Paige Tapp said the team is scouting the Buckeyes.

“We have a different strategy for each [team],” Tapp said, “but we know Ohio State has many different lineups, and we just have to be ready for whatever they bring to us.”

In the teams’ last meeting, the Gophers earned their first Big Ten victory in five sets against the Buckeyes.

The Gophers are 8-10 in conference play so far this season.

“We’re still on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, and I think these wins are really important,” sophomore Sarah Wilhite said.

The Gophers have won their last two matches, including an upset victory against Purdue on Saturday.

“I think we’re starting to play our best volleyball at the right time of the year,” McCutcheon said.

Wilhite said the team is excited to play away again, but they’re especially ready to end the regular season at home.

The Gophers will return home to the Sports Pavilion on Friday and host senior night against Indiana.

Minnesota last played the Hoosiers a month ago and dropped the match in four sets. McCutcheon said the loss against Indiana was tough, especially when sophomore setter Katie Schau got injured when the team was in control of the match.

“I think from there it was difficult for our group, so I’m sure they’ll be looking to right that ship this week,” McCutcheon said.

Going into the last match of the season, Wilhite said the team isn’t thinking about the possibility of ending its season.

“It’s not on my mind all the time because I think then we would play pretty tense, more anxious,” she said. “We know that we can beat these teams, so it’s not really on our minds.”

Last year, the Gophers reached the NCAA regional match before losing to Stanford.

Tapp said this time last year was a lot different.

“It was more relaxed since we had secured our spot in the tournament,” Tapp said.

The NCAA selection show will air Sunday on ESPNU and will reveal the Gophers’ fate.

“It’s not how you start; it’s how you finish in these things,” McCutcheon said.

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