Gophers fall to Stanford in Sweet 16

Minnesota’s loss ended its season and the career of three seniors on the team.

Minnesota outside hitter Ashley Wittman spikes the ball against Radford at the Sports Pavilion on Friday. The Gophers advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins on Friday and Saturday.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota outside hitter Ashley Wittman spikes the ball against Radford at the Sports Pavilion on Friday. The Gophers advanced to the Sweet 16 with wins on Friday and Saturday.

David Nelson

The Gophers watched their season disintegrate into thin air as Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku slammed down the final point for the Cardinal.

While the match ended 3-0, Minnesota put up a valiant effort in the defeat.

Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon said his team simply didn’t make plays when it needed to.

Stanford’s block frustrated the Gophers all night as the combination of the sophomore Ajanaku and senior Carly Wopat was instrumental in stymying the Minnesota vattack.

McCutcheon said the Gophers struggles in the passing game, which didn’t do the team any favors offensively

“That made our offense more predictable and therefore their blockers were ready,” he said

Though they pushed each set to its final point, the Gophers went down by two sets quickly.

Still, as fans have seen throughout the year, Minnesota continued to battle.

“That’s been a trait of this team the whole year,” McCutcheon said. “It wasn’t a surprise that we were able to grind it out and even find a way to get back into it in that third [set].”

Minnesota ultimately fell to the Cardinal 25-22 in the third set to complete the sweep.

“We had a great season it just didn’t end up the way we wanted it to,” senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman said. “It’s sad that it’s over, but at the same time, we’ve got to move on.”

This marks the end of an era for Gophers volleyball team as bid farewell to Wittman as well as seniors Tori Dixon and Alexandra Palmer.

Those three players helped propel the Gophers into the Sweet 16 this season.

McCutcheon said the third round exit doesn’t reflect the talent of the team.

 “I think our team is a top-10 team [in the NCAA], maybe a top-eight team, maybe even more than that,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a shame that we didn’t get a result that represented that.”

The Gopher graduating class holds a resume that includes four Sweet 16 appearances and a trip to the Elite Eight last season.

Though Dixon herself doesn’t know what to expect out of next year’s volleyball team she said she isn’t too worried.

“It’s a strong program,” Dixon said. “The coaches are great, and I don’t think that will fade.

“I don’t think tradition graduates.”