Women fall to rival Wisconsin on road

Minnesota won the first set but lost the final three and fell to 18-4.

Minnesota outside hitter Ashley Wittman spikes the ball over the net against Michigan State on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota outside hitter Ashley Wittman spikes the ball over the net against Michigan State on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

by David Nelson

No. 7 Minnesota entered the match against Wisconsin on a streak of three impressive victories — two over ranked opponents.

That streak came to an abrupt halt Wednesday night as the rival Badgers beat the Gophers in four sets in Madison, Wis.

With the victory, Wisconsin moved into a deadlock with the Gophers at third in the Big Ten standings.

“Anything can happen on any given night, and tonight was Wisconsin’s night on the court,” senior setter Alexandra Palmer said after the match. “We’ll get them next time.”

Minnesota won the first set and looked to be rolling after that, but an inconsistent final three sets led to the four-set loss.

“They’re a team that’s playing on right now. They were certainly good tonight, and I think it’s just the nature of the beast in the Big Ten,” Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon said after the loss.

The Gophers and Badgers played a back-and-forth first set until Minnesota distanced itself midway through the set. It didn’t relinquish the lead after that, winning the first set on a Daly Santana ace.

That ace, and the momentum it provided, appeared to carry over into the second set as Minnesota built an early four-point lead.

But after a controversial call early in the second set, the Badgers stole the momentum and held on to it to tie the match at one set apiece.

“They fought hard the whole match, and I don’t know if we were ready for it,” senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman said. “They are a good group of girls who pushed us to the end.”

The No. 16 Badgers looked dominant at times against the higher-ranked Gophers.

After the match, McCutcheon spoke highly of the Badgers’ new head coach, Kelly Sheffield, and also credited the new additions to the Badgers’ lineup.

“They made plays down the stretch, and they were able to turn a couple and we weren’t,” McCutcheon said. “I think their transition offense was a little bit better than ours. That was really the key to the game.”

Now back home against Northwestern

Minnesota will look to rebound from this loss Sunday against Northwestern. This will be the first time the two teams have met all season.

Northwestern is 13-8 on the season and sits at 5-4 in the Big Ten.

“They’re a scrappy team,” McCutcheon said of Northwestern. “They’re going to play hard and I think we’ll have our hands full.”