Minnesota volleyball defeats top-ranked teams

The No. 2 Gophers defeated No. 1 Nebraska and No. 3 Wisconsin

Gophers outside hitter Sarah Wilhite winds up a spike against Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at the Sports Pavilion.

Carter Jones

Gophers outside hitter Sarah Wilhite winds up a spike against Wisconsin on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 at the Sports Pavilion.

Tommy Sletten

Minnesota was poised to end its regular season on a high note after coming off a Wednesday win against No. 1 Nebraska.

No. 2 Minnesota defeated No. 3 Wisconsin Saturday in five sets, going undefeated at home for the second year in a row and beating ita border rivals on senior night at the Sports Pavilion.

“To our athletes’ credit, their commitment to playing it point-to-point and staying in the match was really phenomenal,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “I can’t imagine there’s been a better series of four matches played by any team.”

Minnesota was slow through the first three sets, losing the first and third — with 25-11, the third set was the Gophers’ lowest scoring set all season.

In between the third and fourth set, Minnesota needed a spark from a leader on the team, and senior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite answered the team’s call.

“I think I just approached it a bit differently,” Wilhite said. “Katie [Schau] actually pulled me aside and just told me to be the leader that I have been, and that really challenged me to step up.”

Wilhite provided 10 kills in the fourth set, adding to the consistent play from middle blocker Paige Tapp.

Minnesota went on to win 25-17, forcing a fifth and final set and stealing away Wisconsin’s momentum.

The Gophers started the fifth set hot, going on a 6-2 run with five kills from Wilhite.

Minnesota made quick work of Wisconsin throughout the rest of the match, headlined by a 5-0 run midway through the set.

Minnesota took set and match point with a kill from Wilhite.

Despite her early struggles, Wilhite had 23 kills on the match with 17 coming in the final two sets.

She earned her double-double with 19 digs, showing off a strong defensive effort.

Paige Tapp had a consistent and efficient match, garnering 21 kills and hitting .594.

Paige Tapp was the only Minnesota attacker to hit in the positive for the first two sets, and she held her team afloat in the beginning of the match.

“I thought it was a really special performance,” McCutcheon said. “[Tapp] is a very good volleyball player, and she proved that tonight. Just a phenomenal night at the net.”

Sophomore setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson had 51 assists and 16 digs on the match while junior middle blocker Molly Lohman had eight blocks.

With that win, Minnesota has now won four straight five-set victories against top 25 teams, including the No. 1 and No. 3 teams.

Minnesota also completed the season with a perfect 13-0 record at the Sports Pavilion, matching their perfect home record of last year.