Samedy shines, Gophers volleyball beats Penn State to remain undefeated

All-American Stephanie Samedy finished with 23 kills to help Minnesota move to 7-0 in the 2021 season.

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

For the Gophers volleyball team, Saturday’s match against Penn State had all the signs of two championship-contending teams competing in the NCAA tournament, let alone a regular season conference match in mid-February.

No set was easy, but Minnesota closed the door early on the Nittany Lions and won in four sets 29-27, 25-23, 23-25 and 25-18. All-American Stephanie Samedy once again took control for the Gophers to help the team remain unbeaten and extend the winning streak to seven.

“What we’ve talked about as a team is competing with composure in matches,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “As the match was going on we were trying to pick the lock and stay patient and we finally picked that lock and figured things out in the fourth set.”

Coming off of Big Ten and National Player of the Week honors a week ago against Purdue, Samedy added another stellar performance to her resume. The opposite hitter had 15 kills through the first two sets of play and finished with 23 kills and 11 digs.

Wins against Penn State have been hard to come by in the past for the Gophers. Coming into the match, Minnesota had a 4-9 record against the Nittany Lions under McCutcheon. However, McCutcheon said the Gophers cannot look too far ahead to what this win means for the squad moving forward and the team needs to focus on one match at a time.

The road through the Big Ten for the next couple of weeks was not supposed to be easy for the fifth-ranked Gophers as the Nittany Lions came in as a top-ten team themselves. Minnesota jumped out to an early lead in the first two sets but each rally was followed by a refusal to quit by Penn State. In the opening set, the Gophers had reached set point five times before eventually coming out on top.

Despite falling behind 2-0 in the match, middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord and outside hitter Jonni Parker would not let Penn State go away quietly. Up 20-19 in the third set and on the verge of sweeping the Nittany Lions, the Gophers gave up four consecutive points and would be forced to play an extra set.

Like they have done in previous matches, the Gophers dropped the hammer in the final set of play and were powered by middle blocker Regan Pittman down the stretch. The senior finished with 10 kills and seven blocks. After the match, Pittman talked about what was different in her approach from previous matches that led to her success.

“I wasn’t worried about getting stuffed at the net, I wasn’t worried about the match overall, I was just playing to play,” Pittman said.

After missing time against Purdue last Saturday due to medical reasons, libero C.C. McGraw returned to the lineup and added a significant boost to the Gophers’ defensive effort with a team-high 19 digs. Setter Melani Shaffmaster led the team with 49 assists and added 17 digs.

Minnesota will host Penn State again Sunday night and look to move to 8-0. With a win Sunday, the Gophers would record three straight victories against the Nittany Lions.