Gophers volleyball dominates Hawkeyes to finish season

After sweeping Iowa on Friday and Saturday, the No. 3 ranked Gophers now have their eyes set on making another run to the Final Four.

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Shannon Doyle

Opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy spikes the ball to earn a point for the Gophers in Maturi Pavilion on Sunday, Jan. 24. The Gophers won against Michigan State Spartans with a score of 3-0.

Brendan O'Brien

Eleven weeks after the start of an unusual 2021 season, the Minnesota volleyball team closed out the regular season with two dominant wins over Iowa.

The wins over the Hawkeyes solidify the Gophers’ spot at second in the conference, at 15-2 behind Wisconsin. The matches Friday and Saturday were the No. 3 Gophers’ last opportunity to take the court before leaving for Omaha, Nebraska, for the NCAA Tournament. Selection for the tournament takes place Sunday, and Minnesota has a chance to be one of the tournament’s top seeds given its top-three ranking.

Gophers roll in three Friday, win 25-22, 25-11 and 25-19

Led by a balanced attack, Minnesota would not be stopped by Iowa Friday night. The Gophers had little trouble killing the ball in match one, as the team finished with a season-high .448 hitting percentage. Stephanie Samedy led the team in kills with 13, but three other Gophers — Taylor Landfair, Adanna Rollins and Regan Pittman — finished the match with double-digit kills. Melani Shaffmaster had team highs in assists and digs, with 35 and nine respectively.

In set one, the Gophers saw an 18-8 lead eventually evaporate as the Hawkeyes quickly cut it down. Iowa went on another run to pull within two, but the effort was too late as Minnesota was already at match point and had a set-sealing kill from Rollins.

Gophers sweep 25-18, 25-14 and 25-16 Saturday

The second match was much of the same for Minnesota as the team took care of business again in straight sets. Iowa was able to hang around early in each set, but Minnesota continued to make a run in each to secure the final victory of the regular season.

Rollins recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs, while Samedy added a match-high 14 kills. Pittman contributed all over the court as she finished with six kills, four digs, three aces and two blocks.

The Gophers’ defense flexed its muscle early in the match, holding the Hawkeyes to a .065 hitting percentage in the first set. Jenna Wenaas played well in the back row, adding 10 digs to Minnesota’s match total without C.C. McGraw in the lineup.

Minnesota has a 5-1 record on the season without McGraw in the lineup, but her absence could prove critical as the regular season comes to a close and single-elimination matches begin.

With the final match wrapped up, the Gophers will now await their fate for who and when they will play in the NCAA Tournament. Instead of the typical 64 teams, only 48 will be a part of the tournament this season. The Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee will select 16 of those teams to receive at-large bids while the remaining teams have already automatically qualified for the tournament. The competition for the championship will begin April 14.