After losing two consecutive matches, Minnesota bounces back

The Gophers responded to a .183 hitting percentage Friday against Nebraska by hitting .333 against Iowa on Saturday.

by Henry Hughes

After losing two straight matches, the Gophers volleyball team won easy on Saturday.

Minnesota responded to a .183 hitting percentage Friday against Nebraska by hitting .333 against Iowa on Saturday, earning the sweep against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City, Iowa.

“I was just really happy with the way we played,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon after the win Saturday night. “I thought it was well executed tonight.”

After getting swept by Michigan State on Sept. 24, Minnesota suffered another defeat to a Big Ten opponent Friday by getting swept against the No. 8 Cornhuskers. It was the first time since October of 2014 the Gophers had been swept in two consecutive Big Ten matches.

Freshman outside hitter Jasmyn Martin attributed the adjustments Saturday to confidence and communication amongst the team.

“Knowing that we’re a really good team, and just having that confidence, helps us get what we want to get done,” Martin said.

Among the adjustments made by Minnesota was a .150 improvement in hitting percentage. 

“In this league you have to have the ability to process whatever happens on one day, and get on with the next one the next day,” McCutcheon said.

Sophomore outside hitter Alexis Hart led the Gophers in kills on Friday with 13, and finished third on Saturday with 12.

“I feel like overall the team is just doing really well,” Hart said. “[Setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson] is really good with the offense, and just balances it out.”

The balance was apparent in the match against Iowa, wherein three different Gophers had double-digit kills. Freshman opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy and Martin both had 13, while Hart finished with her 12.

“I just thought that offensively we were in a better rhythm [than Friday],” McCutcheon said. “I thought we passed particularly well tonight.”

Now, in the middle of four matches in a row that are played on the road, the Gophers volleyball team must continue to play in atmospheres where their opponents have the advantage.

Despite not starting, Martin received a lot of playing time on Saturday. 

“It’s really special,” Martin said. “Especially just because my team is so deep, so I know there’s a lot of people around me to help me.”

Alongside freshman starters Samedy and Lauren Barnes, a defensive specialist, Martin’s performance Saturday helped to provide a productive core for the team, despite being some of the youngest players on the court.

“We were really ahold of ourselves, and I think that was key in the win,” Martin said.

Minnesota continues its road trip on Wednesday, when it faces rival No. 7 Wisconsin in a matchup of two top-ranked teams. The Gophers will also play No. 23 Michigan again this season on Saturday in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Overall, I feel like we did pretty good with communication and just keeping it balanced,” Hart said.