Wilhite wins Big Ten Player of the Week after Gophers sweep road matches

It is the third time this season that the senior outside hitter has won the award.

Senior Sarah Wilhite  gets ready to spike the ball on Saturday Oct. 29, 2016 in the Sports Pavilion.

Chris Dang

Senior Sarah Wilhite gets ready to spike the ball on Saturday Oct. 29, 2016 in the Sports Pavilion.

Tommy Sletten

Minnesota ended its final road trip of the season with two straightforward sweeps at Illinois and Northwestern.

The Gophers saw little trouble from either team, as the squad was able to dismantle their opponents with little resistance.

“It was our goal for this weekend, to create our own energy and work on the things we wanted to work on,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

Senior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite led the Gophers in kills for both games and had 24 total, 21 digs for a double-double weekend and continuing her season-long run of fine form. She also added five service aces in the matches.

Wilhite was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the third time this season following the weekend.

“I think it’s a role that I’ve grown into. I think with the team that we have, everyone trusts each other,” Wilhite said. “I know that I embrace my role, but if I can’t step up someone else will.”

Illinois (14-13, 7-9 Big Ten) gave Minnesota (21-4, 13-3 Big Ten) the most trouble over the weekend, and was the closest to taking a set versus the No. 2 Gophers, taking the three sets to 25-19, 25-18, and 25-20.

The third set saw Illinois starting the set on a 6-3 run, followed by Minnesota knotting the score up at 6-6.

The set saw the score all even four separate times, until Minnesota took the lead at 16-13.

Minnesota held that lead for the remainder of the set, clinching the match in their favor.

Wilhite amassed 12 kills, followed by senior middle blocker Hannah Tapp with nine, and senior middle blocker Paige Tapp with eight.

Minnesota saw much less of a push from their next opponent, the unranked Northwestern Wildcats (8-20, 1-15 Big Ten).

Minnesota never gave up more than 14 points in any set, winning the sets 25-14, 25-13, and 25-10.

The Gophers also outhit the Wildcats a whopping .475 to .097, showing their dominance in the match.

Wilhite, Hannah Tapp, and Paige Tapp duplicated their kill totals, getting 12, nine, and eight respectively.

Sophomore setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson finished the weekend with 69 assists, while junior libero Dalianliz Rosado had 23 digs.

Junior middle blocker Molly Lohman also had 13 kills and nine blocks total in the two games.

Minnesota ended its road schedule 8-4, and have four more home games left in the season.

The Gophers have had increased success at home, going undefeated so far this season, and not taking a loss at the Sports Pavilion since October 22nd, 2014.

The players look forward to returning home, as they hope to improve their 9-0 record to 13-0, heading into the NCAA Tournament.

“We’re really excited to playing in our gym with our fans,” Hannah Tapp said. “It should be an excellent run at home.”