Women sweep weekend slate, stay perfect

The Gophers are 7-0 on the season and haven’t dropped a set.

Minnesota senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman spikes the ball against Duke on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Bridget Bennett

Minnesota senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman spikes the ball against Duke on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

by Samuel Gordon

Temperatures reached the mid-90s in Minneapolis on Saturday, and it may have been even hotter in the jam-packed Sports Pavilion that night.

But the heat couldn’t stop the red-hot Gophers. Neither could the Duke Blue Devils.

No. 4 Minnesota cruised past Duke in three sets to claim the title in the Diet Coke Classic.

Senior middle blocker Tori Dixon was named tournament MVP. She was joined on the All-Tournament team by teammates Alexandra Palmer and Ashley Wittman.

The Gophers are 7-0 this season and have not dropped a set.

“Do we care that we haven’t dropped a set?” Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “It’s more about the fact for us tonight that we executed at a pretty high level.”

The Gophers played their way into the tournament championship with a straight-set victory over Ball State on Friday and another against Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon.

On Saturday night, Minnesota clobbered Duke 25-19, 25-16, 25-17.

Gophers players took ice baths and tried to stay hydrated in between the games. McCutcheon said he was impressed with how they handled the heat.

“I think I drank about 10 bottles of Powerade,” Dixon said.

McCutcheon said playing two matches in a row wasn’t ideal, but the team was more focused against Duke than it was against Western Illinois.

Minnesota was able to shuffle its lineup around a little bit against Western Illinois.

Sophomore sensation Daly Santana rolled her ankle in the first set against Ball State and missed the rest of the match. She was held out of the afternoon game on Saturday as a precautionary measure.

Karlie Hauer replaced Santana in the lineup and was relatively impressive in the two victories.

“It’s important that we know some things before we get into our conference schedule about what this group is capable of doing,” McCutcheon said. “I think this weekend was a good chance to see a little bit more about that.”

Santana made an explosive return to the lineup in the match against Duke, finishing with nine kills.

She said she spent Saturday rehabbing the injury and hoping to play against Duke.

“[The ankle] felt a lot better,” Santana said. “When were in the second game I just blocked the pain.”

Minnesota will travel to Kentucky later in the week for a pair of matches against No. 17 Louisville and No. 21 Kentucky.