Zach Bielinski, Daily File Photo
After a losing first weekend, the University of Minnesota volleyball team had nowhere to go but up, and they did — with an extra sets victory and a sweep over the weekend.
The team defeated the University of Louisville and the University of North Carolina at the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Louisville, Ky., after losing last weekend to No. 2 Stanford University.
“We faced some adversity after Stanford, and I think our athletes learned some things there,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “They learned how to manage themselves and how to get the points to give us the best chance at winning the match.”
The Gophers faced the home team, Louisville, in their first match.
The sets were tied after the first two. Minnesota took the lead in the third set, but Louisville answered back in the fourth to force a fifth.
Minnesota claimed its first victory of the season in the fifth set, edging out Louisville 15-13.
“We were close,” sophomore Dalianliz Rosado said. “We just took it one play at a time.”
It was an especially sweet victory for senior Daly Santana. She had 39 of the team’s 78 kills, setting a new career high for kills in a game.
Santana was the first Gophers player with more than 30 kills in one match since 2011, and she was the first with 39 kills since 1999.
“It felt great,” Santana said. “I couldn’t have had a night like I did without the help of my teammates.”
Other key players in the match were junior Paige Tapp, who had 11 kills in 20 attempts, and freshman Samantha Seliger-Swenson, who had 59 assists and 15 digs.
The Gophers then evened their record to 2-2 on Saturday, with a sweep of No. 18 North Carolina.
The sets were close in score, but Minnesota pulled ahead at the end. The Gophers won the third 25-18, keeping the lead throughout the entire set.
Rosado broke a record of her own, topping her previous career high in digs with 27 against the Tar Heels.
“I was feeling great,” Rosado said. “It was another opportunity for us to win, and I just made sure I supported each player as much as I could.”
Offensively, Hannah Tapp impressed for the Gophers with 10 kills in 18 attempts.
Though it’s only four matches into the season, McCutcheon is happy with particular elements his team has displayed thus far.
“There are some things offensively we can do to clean up,” McCutcheon said. “But our overall level of play and our consistency was a strength for us this weekend, and we hope to build on that going forward.”
The pair of victories certainly gave the team a confidence boost, but they’re also cautious of getting too carried away.
Half of the Big Ten’s teams were ranked in the last week’s top 25 — Minnesota was not one of them.
“It’s about getting better every day that you touch the court,” Santana said. “I think that’s what we’re going to do; we’re going to keep improving the best that we can.”