Gophers volleyball beats Iowa on senior night

Minnesota rebounded with a convincing 3-0 victory after falling to Nebraska on Friday.

Rachel Kilkelly dives for the ball at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 22. The Gophers took Nebraska to five sets but ultimately fell 3-2. 

Jack Rodgers

Rachel Kilkelly dives for the ball at the Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 22. The Gophers took Nebraska to five sets but ultimately fell 3-2. 

by Nolan O'Hara

The Gophers volleyball team closed out their regular season home schedule in style, honoring their seniors and taking down rival Iowa in a bounce-back win. 

The Gophers won in straight sets: 25-14, 25-19 and 25-22. Minnesota was off and running right away in the first. Middle blocker Regan Pittman hit three kills in a row, leading the Gophers as they opened the set 8-3. She added two more back-to-back to extend the Minnesota lead, 17-11. Pittman had six of her team-high 12 kills in the first set. Outside hitter Adanna Rollins and middle blocker Taylor Morgan stuffed an Iowa attempt to reach set point, and an Iowa error gave the Gophers the set.

Minnesota trailed for the majority of the second. Iowa responded to Minnesota’s strong first, going on multiple runs and taking a 13-9 lead. The Gophers returned the favor with a 7-0 run, capped by back-to-back blocks from Pittman and opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy which put them back on top, 18-15. Rollins, Pittman and Samedy all added kills before Morgan and outside hitter Alexis Hart stopped an Iowa attempt to close out the second. 

“Nice little comeback in the second, we knew Iowa would respond to that first set and they did,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. 

The Gophers opened the third with a seven-point advantage. Pittman slammed one home off an overpass and followed it with another kill. Rollins added one more as the Gophers built a 10-3 lead. As Iowa crept back, Morgan crushed another overpass. Morgan also added a kill to get the Gophers to set point and Pittman and Samedy stuffed another Iowa attempt to send it home. 

After the match, the Gophers honored their senior class with a video tribute. The seniors — Hart, Morgan, setter Kylie Miller and defensive specialist Lauren Liztau — were all joined by their families as the tribute played. 

“No words can ever describe how it feels,” Morgan said. “There’s some sadness, but there’s also some happiness.”

McCutcheon noted the importance of the night after the match. 

“It’s a great moment that we get to celebrate the last home [match] with our seniors and the emotion is real,” McCutcheon said. “No one can explain the journey that you go on over the course of your career, but I think it’s fair to say it’s significant. And when we get to the end, and you can see that these players are playing as good as they are on the court and getting it done in the classroom and they’re growing up and ready to go out into the world for the next chapter of life, I think it’s kind of a remarkable thing. It’s one of the best things we get to do.”