Unranked Michigan State takes down first-ranked Minnesota at home

The loss snapped a 40-match home win streak dating back to 2014.

Freshman opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy practices with a weighted ball on Wednesday.

Freshman opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy practices with a weighted ball on Wednesday.

by Henry Hughes

After a 12-0 start to the season, the No. 1 Minnesota volleyball team can finally remove the target from its back.

The Gophers (12-1, 1-1 Big Ten) were swept by unranked Michigan State (9-2, 2-0 Big Ten) on Sunday afternoon, losing 25-18, 25-23, and 25-22.

“I think we know that every night in the Big Ten is a battle” said senior middle blocker Molly Lohman.

The Maturi Pavilion has epitomized the definition of home-court advantage for Minnesota in recent years, as the Gophers had not lost at home in 40 straight matches, prior to Sunday’s contest against Michigan State.

“[The winning streak] speaks to some consistency” McCutcheon said. “It speaks to a lot of great fan support, and proves that this is one of the best places to play in the country.” 

The Spartans led for most of the first set, as there was one lead change and only four ties throughout. 

During the second set, the game remained a back-and-forth battle with two lead changes and 11 ties. It was during the third set that the momentum appeared to emerge for the Gophers as they went up 16-7 over the Spartans. 

Michigan State did not back down from the deficit and stormed back with a 10-1 run to tie the match at 17.

“I thought [the Spartans] served particularly well,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “I thought their defense in transition was impressive.”

The win for Michigan State capped off a successful weekend for the team. The Spartans beat No. 5 Wisconsin in five sets on Friday, and then defeated No. 1 Minnesota Sunday afternoon. 

“As close as we could get a couple of times, it was just tough for us to sustain any good side-out rhythm,” McCutcheon said. “It is certainly kudos to them.”

Minnesota is a team that is freshman-heavy, starting two true-freshman players Sunday — opposite Stephanie Samedy and defensive specialist Lauren Barnes — in addition to redshirt freshman middle blocker Regan Pittman.

When asked about how the upperclassman might help to keep the mood up for the younger players, junior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson spun the loss into a positive note.

“I think just viewing this as a learning experience” Seliger-Swenson said. “We have a lot to learn, we have a lot of season left. Really, I think this is going to help us in the long run.”

Prior to Sunday’s loss, Minnesota had beat No. 20 Michigan 3-1 at the Maturi Pavilion Friday night.

The win came with a dominant fourth set in which Minnesota overwhelmed Michigan 25-8 to close out the victory in front of 5,028 fans.

“The thing I’m most proud of relative to the week of practice is that there’s things we’re better at tonight that we weren’t doing last weekend,” McCutcheon said on Friday. “To me, that’s the key is that every week we can add another layer to this thing.”

Minnesota plays another matchup against a ranked opponent in No. 14 Nebraska, Friday in Lincoln.

In terms of beginning another winning streak, McCutcheon is hopeful.

“It was a good ride, and we’ll try and start another one,” he said.