Gophers play catch-up in win over MSU

Minnesota battled back twice from a set down to defeat Michigan State.

Megan Ryan

The Gophers volleyball team had to catch up to Michigan State twice before winning in five sets Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.

The No. 25 Spartans continued their momentum from their victory over Wisconsin on Friday by stealing two of the first three sets from the No. 10 Gophers and nearly winning the fourth.

But Minnesota battled from a 20-15 deficit in the fourth and cruised from there. With the win, the Gophers improved to 5-1 in conference play.

“We knew they were good. They had a nice match [Friday] against a good team in Wisconsin,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “They were hot coming in here, and they certainly showed that. They played very well.”

The first set, which Minnesota lost 25-22, was close and could’ve gone either way, McCutcheon said.

For the second set, the Gophers made adjustments to create a larger gap. They won it 25-15.

“From set-to-set, hopefully we get better each time,” senior middle blocker Dana Knudsen said, “We’re learning more and more about the players and their tendencies.”

Knudsen led the Gophers in hitting percentage at .625 with 11 kills and one error in 16 attempts. She said her teammates helped her play consistently.

“Tonight I really grooved with the setters,” Knudsen said. “I think we just really got jamming tonight.”

After splitting the third and fourth sets with Michigan State, the Gophers shut down the Spartans in the fifth.

Michigan State never gained the lead over Minnesota in the fifth set, which the Gophers won 15-8.

While the Gophers improved to 14-3 overall, they still struggled to consistently receive serves well.

Minnesota had 10 receiving errors — five each from freshman libero Lindsey Lawmaster and freshman outside hitter Daly Santana.

Michigan State forced the two freshmen to parry most of the serves, but Lawmaster said it wasn’t because of her youth.

“I don’t think they’re necessarily targeting the freshmen,” Lawmaster said. “I just think they’re targeting the weaker passer at the moment. I think we both had some little rollercoaster moments.”

Lawmaster said she and Santana are still learning and will continue to develop how they receive different serves.

The Gophers will hit the road this week to play unranked Iowa and No. 4 Nebraska. McCutcheon said defeating the Spartans at home will help refocus the Gophers.

“For our team, it was a bit of a gut check,” McCutcheon said. “Thankfully, we had a lot of people contribute in a lot of different ways, and we were able to find ways to win when maybe what we do regularly wasn’t being as effective as we needed it to be.

“It was a nice battle back.”