Gophers volleyball swept by Nebraska, suffer first loss of the season

Minnesota struggled to get in a rhythm early and dropped its first match of 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

After winning nine consecutive matches to open the season, the Gophers volleyball team suffered its first loss of the year, losing in straight sets: 17-25, 15-25 and 22-25 to No. 4 Nebraska.

Minnesota had won 12 consecutive matches on the road dating back to last season only to see that streak come to an end Sunday. The Gophers were also without a significant piece of their winning formula. Outside hitter Adanna Rollins was ruled out before the match with a non-COVID-19 related medical reason, forcing freshman Jenna Wenaas into the starting lineup.

Following the loss, head coach Hugh McCutcheon was optimistic about how the result could help his team moving forward.

“As tough as it is to lose a match, the sting will fade and I do think there is a really good opportunity here for us to learn some lessons mid-season versus waiting until the end of it,” McCutcheon said.

The Cornhuskers came out flat in the opening set Friday night but changed course in the first two sets Sunday. Outside hitter Lexi Sun was on fire for Nebraska while Gophers’ Stephanie Samedy was held in check early in the match.

“We hit a few out tonight and that’s not usually the way we play, and by the time you hit a few out and serve a few out all of a sudden, it gets a lot harder,” McCutcheon said. “Defensively, they threw more blockers at Stephanie’s direction. I don’t think that was the difference, but that slowed her down a little bit.”

Despite their success Friday, serving was an area that plagued the Gophers Sunday. Both Minnesota and Nebraska finished with eight service errors, but the Cornhuskers made up for their mistakes with four service aces while Minnesota had none.

“We missed too many, that’s what happened. We were struggling to knock [Nebraska] out [of system]. We’ll get some lessons learned and we’ll move on,” McCutcheon said.

Minnesota never led in the first two sets. With their backs against the wall, the Gophers fought back to make the final set the tightest of the match. Kills by Samedy and freshman Taylor Landfair kept the Gophers in it during a back-and-forth set, but it was Nebraska who ultimately prevailed.

Landfair finished with a team-high 14 kills in the match, but the Gophers’ hitting percentage was relatively low. McCutcheon thought this issue was mostly based on Nebraska’s adjustments from match one to match two.

Now 9-1 on the season, Minnesota heads home for its next opponent. The Gophers will host Michigan on Feb. 26-27.