Gophers clinch third Big Ten Championship after beating Ohio State in five sets

No. 3 Minnesota went all the way with the Buckeyes Saturday as they capped the night off with a five-set victory and the program’s third Big Ten Championship.

Redshirt Sophomore Regan Pittman jumps to spike the ball at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 9. The Gophers swept Indiana in all three sets.

Image by Jack Rodgers

Redshirt Sophomore Regan Pittman jumps to spike the ball at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 9. The Gophers swept Indiana in all three sets.

by David Mullen

The Gophers volleyball team seems to be impervious to losing.

With one weekend to go in conference play No. 3 Minnesota (24-2, 18-0 Big Ten) clinched the program’s third Big Ten championship Saturday as it defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes in five sets: 23-25, 25-20, 25-13, 23-25 and 15-11.

“I was incredibly proud in the way we played,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

This is the program’s first conference championship since 2015.

“It’s unreal … really unreal,” said middle blocker Regan Pittman.

Along with winning the title, the Gophers extended their historic winning streak to 19 matches at the last volleyball match ever hosted at St. John’s Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Although the Gophers eventually took the game, Ohio State went all the way with Minnesota as the teams played five sets.

The final set was neck-and-neck the whole match, as the Gophers trailed 5-4 early. Pittman converted two straight kills and gave the Gophers a lead they would not give up.

Minnesota eventually took the set 15-11 and were led by Pittman who had four kills in the set.

“For our athletes to be able to respond … and find ways to win was impressive to say the least,” McCutcheon said.

Pittman was dominant in the Gophers’ victory as she had 20 kills while hitting .625 percent along with three aces.

From the first serve of the match, both sides were battling for every point.

The Gophers took a quick 6-1 lead but Ohio State answered scoring six straight. The set continued to be a battle but Ohio State took the set 25-23, putting the Gophers down 1-0 in the match.

The second set was just as competitive as neither team held more than a three-point lead mid-way through the set. 

With the score 20-18 in the set, the Gophers took control and scored five of the final seven points, tying the match at 1-1.

Outside hitter Stephanie Samedy made her presence felt with seven kills and three service aces in the set.

“I just really shifted my mindset from waiting and being a little passive to doing all that I can,” Samedy said.

Everything in the third set went Minnesota’s way as they took a lead and never looked back. Behind a five-kill set, Pittman and the Gophers took the set 25-13.

Ohio State’s resilience showed in the fourth set as it bounced back from a blow-out in the previous set.

The set was back-and-forth from the first serve. With the score even at 14, the Buckeyes went on a four-point run and kept the lead.

Although the Gophers fought until the final point, Ohio State won the set 25-23.

The well-balanced offensive machine coordinated had 10 total service aces and had four players with double-digit kills.

“Just the fact that people can contribute at different ways on different nights. I think that’s what makes this particular group special,” McCutcheon said.

The Gophers will look to finish the regular season undefeated starting Friday when they travel to Penn State.