Gophers volleyball fight off Boilermakers, extend winning streak

After winning twelve consecutive sets to open the season, Minnesota was forced to five sets twice against Purdue over the weekend.

The+Gophers+huddle+to+celebrate+defeating+Oral+Roberts+three+sets+to+none+at+the+Maturi+Pavilion+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+21%2C+2019.

Kamaan Richards

The Gophers huddle to celebrate defeating Oral Roberts three sets to none at the Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.

Brendan O'Brien, Sports Reporter

After beginning the season 4-0 and winning twelve-straight sets, Minnesota volleyball head coach Hugh McCutcheon said he does not care how many sets it takes as long as the Gophers win each match.

It took all five sets in each match this weekend, but the sixth-ranked team in the country pulled out two victories this weekend against No. 13 Purdue to remain undefeated. The series was the first significant test for the Gophers this season, as they were on the road playing against a ranked opponent for the first time.

Gophers come back and win in five on Friday: 20-25, 25-23, 24-26, 25-21 and 15-7

Purdue regained an offensive weapon to open Friday’s match while Minnesota lost a defensive one. 2019 third-team All-American outside hitter Grace Cleveland returned to the lineup for the Boilermakers while the Gophers lost libero C.C. McGraw due to a medical issue after the third set.

Ultimately, Minnesota prevailed in five back-and-forth sets. Minnesota had difficulties handling Purdue’s serves throughout the first set as the Boilermakers had seven of their 13 service aces come in the opening set.

After the Gophers dropped the opening set, it looked as if they might get run off the court by the Boilermakers in the second set when Purdue jumped out to an early 5-0 lead. Middle blocker Regan Pittman helped turn the tide later in the set with two aces to provide momentum.

Opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy was the difference maker for Minnesota in the opening match. The 2019 second-team All-American finished with a career-high 28 kills and added 26 digs. She was the first Gopher since Katherine Harms in 2011 to produce a 20 kill, 20 dig performance. Outside hitters Adanna Rollins and Taylor Landfair contributed 17 and 14 kills respectively, while Rollins added 27 digs.

Gophers survive again Saturday: 25-18, 17-25, 17-25, 25-21, 15-9

The second match of the series was back-and-forth as well, but the Gophers and Boilermakers took turns dominating the other in the beginning. Samedy came out with another stellar performance to ultimately power the Gophers to another victory.

Minnesota was in-system as they adjusted to Purdue’s serves and controlled the set. The Boilermakers made adjustments of their own in the second and what started out as a tight set ended in two dominant set wins in the second and third by the Boilermakers. Samedy, Rollins and Landfair struggled hitting the ball past the hands of Purdue and saw some of their swings blocked. The Gophers also struggled stopping outside hitter Caitlyn Newton as she had 16 kills through two sets and 29 overall.

Minnesota continued to battle and would not go away in the fourth set. Coming out of a timeout down 18-21, the Gophers rallied off seven straight points to stop the bleeding and take the set. Five of the seven points to end the match were kills, and Rollins closed out the set with an ace.

“We all just kind [of] realized we needed to step it up. What we were doing just wasn’t enough,” Samedy said. “[Rollins] was able to give us a little pep talk and it kind of changed the momentum and our mindset and we were able to shift how we were playing.”

After struggling to find the floor earlier in the match, the Gophers’ hitters came through late to put a close to the match and series. Samedy and Landfair finished with 20 and 17 kills respectively.

Now 6-0, Minnesota will look to extend its winning streak to another weekend. The path through the Big Ten only gets tougher for the Gophers as they host No. 9 Penn State Feb. 13-14.