Gophers grab two wins at University Park

The team knocked off a pair of top-ten teams, No. 10 Oregon and No. 1 Stanford.

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Jack Rodgers

Outside Hitter Alexis Hart receives the ball at the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 7. The Gophers defeated Florida 3 sets to 0 for their home opener.

Nolan O'Hara

It was a big weekend for the Gophers volleyball team, as they took down two top-ten opponents, the No. 10 Oregon Ducks and No.1 Stanford, at the Big Ten/PAC 12 Challenge.

Friday, they beat Oregon in straight sets: 25-23, 25-18 and 25-19. Outside hitter Stephanie Samedy once again had an excellent performance for the Gophers. She finished with a double-double, recording 14 kills and 11 digs. She also added a pair of aces, but it was the team’s defensive performance that was key to their victory. The team totaled nine blocks and held Oregon to a .117 hit  percentage. Middle blocker Regan Pittman was a major contributor to the Gophers’ excellent performance around the net. She had seven blocks in the match. 

“We’ve been working really, really hard as a team on our blocking, that’s something we’ve been working on since last spring,” Pittman said. “It’s really so awesome to put it from practice into play.”

Oregon’s a team the Gophers are quite familiar with. They played twice last season, with both matches ending in a Minnesota loss. Most notably, they defeated the Gophers in the Sweet Sixteen, ending their 2018 season.

“You know, 2018 was the 2018 season, and we brought what Minnesota volleyball is to this 2019 season,” Pittman said. 

They continued to bring Minnesota volleyball on Saturday, when they took on top-ranked Stanford. They won the match in four sets: 27-25, 27-25, 23-25 and 25-20. Samedy followed Friday’s double-double with another on Saturday. She finished the match with a whopping 21 kills and 11 digs. 

“They would get their kills, we’d try to move on to the next point. I was just focused on doing the things I needed to do to help my teammates out,” Samedy said. 

She certainly did that. Defensively, Samedy added six blocks to go along with her 11 digs. As a team, the Gophers finished the match with 85 digs, 13 blocks and held Stanford to a .185 hit percentage.

“I thought it was one of the better defensive performances, blocking and digging,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “I think that speaks volumes about the defensive discipline that we’ve worked on and acquired over the last five weeks.”

Hard work certainly paid off for the Gophers on Saturday. They took down the No. 1 team in the nation and broke Stanford’s 37-match win streak. 

“You earn a little bit of confidence tonight. It’s still the early days and Stanford had to play late last night, they had to turn around and play again today, it’s the nature of preseason events,” McCutcheon said. “Regardless, we’re out there competing, and they had to compete. It was a good opportunity for us to weather some of these storms from a really good team, defending national champions for a reason. They’re a heck of a squad. I was just really proud of the way we were able to stay in there and find ways to win, especially in those first couple sets.”

A previous version of this story misnamed the Stanford team. The team is named the Stanford Cardinal.