Gophers split matches in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

The Gophers lost in straight sets for the first time since 2017.

Redshirt Junior Taylor Morgan spikes the ball on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Maturi Pavilion.

Courtney Deutz

Redshirt Junior Taylor Morgan spikes the ball on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 at Maturi Pavilion.

Nolan O'Hara

It was two very different matches for No. 3 Minnesota as they kicked off their season at the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

In the team’s season opener on Friday, Aug. 30 the Gophers defeated North Carolina in three sets: 25-16, 28-26 and 25-17. Leading the way for the Gophers were opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy and middle blocker Taylor Morgan, who had a combined 27 kills. Samedy also had a team-high 14 digs and added a pair of blocks; however, it was Morgan who got things jump-started for the Gophers with eight kills in the first set. 

“It all started with a great pass,” Morgan said. “A hitter can’t really do what they need to do without a great pass and a great set.” 

The Gophers looked to keep their momentum going on Saturday against Florida State to no avail. The Seminoles upset Minnesota in three sets: 25-17, 26-24 and 25-21. The biggest surprise came in the second when the Gophers took a 24-20 lead before Florida State went on a 6-0 run to capture the set and go up 2-0. The Gophers were unable to recover in the third. Florida State opened the third set on a 4-0 run and maintained their lead throughout. 

“I think they served and passed better than we did, and that was kind of the main thing,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “They did a nice job, they played well.” 

It was the first time the Gophers had lost in three sets since losing to USC in the NCAA Tournament in 2017. 

Moving forward, the Gophers look to build on the success they had against North Carolina and put their first loss of the season behind them. 

“It’s definitely an opportunity for improvement, kind of shows what we need to work on as a team,” Samedy said. “You know, just kind of fuel that fire, you just want to get after it even more as a team.” 

It will be a quick turnaround for the Gophers coming off of Saturday’s loss. They will look for a win on Wednesday when they take on Texas, followed by their first home game of the season against Florida on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“I think it’s going to take us playing our game consistently, just doing what we do and not really focusing on any other things. Not focusing on what they’re doing, not focusing on what the score is, just playing Gopher volleyball,” Morgan said. “I also think it’s going to take our connectiveness, together we can do a lot of things well, so I just think that is going to be a big factor moving forward in all of our games.”