Gophers overcome two set losses for match victory

No. 3 Minnesota won its 15th-straight match after battling Michigan State for five sets Saturday.

Junior Alexis Hart hits the ball at Maturi Pavillon on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Gophers won 3-2 against Michigan State and Hart scored her thousandth kill.

Image by Tony Saunders

Junior Alexis Hart hits the ball at Maturi Pavillon on Saturday, Nov. 3. The Gophers won 3-2 against Michigan State and Hart scored her thousandth kill.

by David Mullen

Things looked dicey for the Gophers near the end of the game, something they’re not used to.

No. 3 Minnesota (20-2, 14-0 Big Ten) played five sets for the first time all year, and the team went on to win its 15th consecutive match over Michigan State (15-12, 3-11 Big Ten) Saturday.

“We play in this unbelievable league where everybody’s good,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

For the first time since Sept. 9 against Stanford, the Gophers dropped two sets in a match.

In the fifth and final set of the match, the Gophers fell behind early but soared to take the win.

While trailing 2-1, the Gophers caught fire and scored six consecutive points to clamp down on the lead. Outside hitter Adanna Rollins had three kills during the run.

Michigan State was resilient, but Minnesota’s fight was too much. The Gophers took the final set 15-7.

“We really came out and I think the mentality [was] that we wanted to win and that we were going to win,” said middle blocker Regan Pittman.

The Spartans came out guns blazing, and the Gophers dropped the opening set for the second straight match. 

Contrary to the status-quo this season, everything went Michigan State’s way at the beginning. The Spartans went on an 8-1 run to start the match. Four of the points given up by the Gophers were off errors.

Trailing by seven, the Gophers scored three consecutive points to make it 8-4 in favor of the Spartans.

Minnesota made the set competitive as it went on an 8-3 run of its own and cut the score to 13-12. The Gophers tied the match at 14 and took their first lead 16-14 after two consecutive points. Even though the Gophers fought hard, Michigan State took the set 25-23.

The Gophers had 10 errors in the first set but also had five players register a kill.

The Gophers rallied in the second set, taking a quick 5-3 lead. Michigan State was resilient, however, and fought its way back to take a slight 10-9 lead over the Gophers.

Minnesota went on a five-point run and took a 14-10 lead after four straight kills and a block by opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy.

After continuously extending their lead, the Gophers went on to take the second set 25-19 led by Samedy, who had six kills and two blocks in the set.

The third set began with a Spartan attack that looked like it was not going to cool down, and the Spartans took a commanding 6-1 lead. However, the Gophers went on a 7-1 run of their own and took a slight 8-7 lead.

After a Michigan State point, the Gophers went on another seven-point run and extended their lead to 15-7.

The Gophers extended their lead to 20-12. The Spartans went on a surge at the end of the set, but it wasn’t enough as the Gophers took the set 25-17.

Rollins and Samedy both had four kills within the set.

The fourth set started as a battle for every point as the Spartans took a 5-4 lead over the Gophers. Michigan State extended its lead to 10-7, but the Gophers’ resilience tied the set at 10 after a 3-0 run.

Michigan State took a 20-19 lead and took over from there. Michigan State won the set 25-21.

Pittman led the Gophers with 15 kills and seven blocks.

Outside hitter Alexis Hart had 14 kills and reached 1000 career kills in the match, the first junior to do so since Daly Santana in 2014.

“It’s nice, but [Samantha Seliger-Swenson] is a really great server so she sets up really great opportunities for me,” Hart said.