Aces aid Gophers’ attack in routine home win

Minnesota served eight aces in a 3-0 win against North Dakota State.

Minnesota middle blocker Tori Dixon spikes during a game against North Dakota State Monday at the Sports Pavilion. Dixon had 15 kills with two aces and threes block assists.

Anthony Kwan

Minnesota middle blocker Tori Dixon spikes during a game against North Dakota State Monday at the Sports Pavilion. Dixon had 15 kills with two aces and threes block assists.

Megan Ryan

Led by an octet of aces, the Gophers volleyball team defeated North Dakota State 3-0 at the Sports Pavilion on Monday.

Minnesota defeated the Bison 25-19, 25-17 and 25-16.

Freshman outside hitter Daly Santana tallied three service aces, junior middle blocker Tori Dixon had two, and three other Gophers players had one as Minnesota dominated from the service line in a routine win.

While the eight aces are impressive, the abundance of service errors dulled their impact. As a team, Minnesota recorded nine errors, four of which came from Santana.

“No errors and all aces, that would make our job pretty easy,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “When you’re learning to serve at the level that we want to serve at … there’s going to be some mistakes. I don’t think there were too many service errors that were … reckless.

“As long as we’re learning from that, then that’s OK with me,” McCutcheon said. “Obviously at some point we have to get done learning and we’ve got to get more into doing.”

McCutcheon said he wants the team to avoid making several errors in a row. He said the next piece of the puzzle will be using serves to not give away easy points.

While Santana’s serving may be inconsistent, her serving runs made the Bison defense scramble. The Puerto Rico-native scored consecutive aces in one serving run in the second set.

“I’ve just been practicing a lot on my serve,” Santana said. “I dedicate a lot of time to it to make it better.”

Before this match, Santana was tied for third in the Big Ten with 24 aces.

While aces ended some points quickly, the match was filled with many long rallies. Dixon, who led the Gophers with 15 kills, said the team was trying not to force kills if the point wasn’t set up for it.

“Give them the ball, let them play it, let them make the errors,” Dixon said. “We just worry about our side and playing smarter volleyball.”

The newly No. 10-ranked Minnesota improved its record to 7-1 and rebounded from Friday’s loss at Texas.

The Gophers will travel to Tulsa, Okla., on Friday and Saturday to play unranked Tulsa, No. 19 Kansas State and No. 20 Dayton.