Gophers brush past Wildcats in sweep at home

Daly Santana led the team with 12 kills in the match Wednesday night.

Outside hitter Daly Santana jumps to strike the ball against Northwestern at the Sports Pavilion on Wednesday night.

Joe Sulik

Outside hitter Daly Santana jumps to strike the ball against Northwestern at the Sports Pavilion on Wednesday night.

Emily Polglaze

After two extra-set matches on the road to open the Big Ten season, the No. 16 Gophers came home Wednesday evening to sweep Northwestern in their conference home opener. 
 
Though the Gophers won in three sets, it was a narrow victory.
 
“A win is a win in the Big Ten, and it feels great,” senior Daly Santana said. “But there’s definitely a lot of things we’ll be working on for our next match.”
 
The Gophers were shaky in the first set when some early miscommunication and long, efficient rallies from the Wildcats defense kept the team on its toes.
 
The score was mostly tied until the Gophers earned a 10-8 lead, which they secured on a Molly Lohman kill. 
 
The Gophers continued to lead, and after moving in front 16-11, they kept Northwestern down by at least five points through the end of the set. 
 
Back-to-back attack errors for Northwestern and a Hannah Tapp kill pushed the Gophers over the top and gave them a 25-16 victory. 
 
The Gophers led in hitting percentage and kills after the first set but didn’t record any blocks, while Northwestern had three. 
 
Serving was the main factor that pushed Minnesota past the Wildcats in the first set, as they had no errors and three service aces from Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Santana and Lohman in the team’s 24 attempts. 
 
“We have good servers who can put the ball in the court with some pace on it,” Hannah Tapp said. “Using that strength to our advantage tonight was something that really helped us.”
 
The second set also proved to be a challenge for Minnesota, as its 25-23 victory was a close one until the end. 
 
The Gophers led for most of the set, but the Wildcats evened the score nine times throughout and pushed the score to 24-23 on two straight kills. 
 
A Daly Santana kill gave the Gophers the close victory. 
 
Much of the scoring in the second set on both sides was comprised of errors, with nine of the Gophers’ 25 points coming from Northwestern errors and seven of the 
Wildcat’s 23 from Minnesota errors.
 
In the third set, Northwestern jumped out to an early lead, but the Gophers stayed within two points consistently. 
 
An ace from Seliger-Swenson tied the score at 9-9, and the game stayed back-and-forth until the Gophers took the lead off of an Alyssa Goehner kill, making the score 13-12.
Minnesota took a timeout after Northwestern tied the score at 20. 
 
The timeout was enough to give the Gophers some energy, and despite the Wildcats adding one more point, the Gophers prevailed and took the set 25-21. 
 
An interesting factor in the match was video replay, a feature new to Big Ten volleyball to which only Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin currently have access. 
 
Each team is allowed three challenges per match, and each team used the option twice. 
 
“I thought it was great,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “To have some objectivity in close moments, I thought it went well. It can only contribute to the matches when the calls are the right calls.”
 
Though the win pushed the Gophers to 2-1 in the Big Ten, they’re still adjusting to being back on their home court. 
 
“When you’re on the road, there aren’t so many people that are expecting things from you,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a different energy that you have to get used to.”