Penn State snaps Gophers’ winning streak

The Gophers won the first set before losing the next three on Saturday.

Rachel Timmerman

The heat was high and the Sports Pavilion was packed as the Gophers closed out their first week of conference play Saturday.

Despite the buzz, Minnesota lost to the reigning national champions, No. 3 Penn State, in four sets.

The Gophers took control in the first set but faltered in the second and third, and there was noticeable frustration on Minnesota’s side of the net.

“We were trying to force a few things to recreate the magic of set one,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “When we start forcing shots, it seldom turns out well for us.”

McCutcheon also said the heat didn’t help the Gophers’ performance.

“[The heat] is not good for us in terms of being able to stay focused and have energy,” he said.

But junior outside hitter Daly Santana said she didn’t think the heat significantly affected the team.

During the match, there were multiple lineup changes to give players a chance to catch their breath, McCutcheon said.

The switches proved promising, and McCutcheon said the team came back with a more balanced perspective in the fourth set.

But the Gophers’ rally fell short, as they lost the set 25-22.

“Even though we didn’t play our best in the second and third [sets], we definitely came back in the fourth [set] wanting to win,” sophomore Sarah Wilhite said.

Even though the Gophers were markedly better in the first and fourth sets, McCutcheon said Penn State was steady and it was hard for the Gophers, specifically the younger players, to maintain that same level of execution.

“[The younger players] are not used to that required level of consistent effort,” McCutcheon said.

Wilhite echoed that sentiment, and she said the team needs to work on its consistency and controlling its side of the net.

The loss ended a 10-match winning streak for Minnesota, which dropped to 11-2 (1-1 Big Ten).

The Gophers need to improve their discipline and patience on offense, McCutcheon said, adding that the team played hard Saturday and knows how to fight.

“They didn’t roll over; they didn’t give up,” McCutcheon said. “Even when they were down by a good chunk, they were still battling away.”