Gophers volleyball back on track after successful Pac-12/Big Ten challenge

A slow start to the season was put behind after back-to-back top-25 wins against Stanford and Oregon.

Outside hitter Stephanie Samedy spikes the ball at Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. The Gophers swept South Carolina in all three sets.

Ellen Schmidt

Outside hitter Stephanie Samedy spikes the ball at Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, Dec. 1, 2018. The Gophers swept South Carolina in all three sets.

AJ Condon, Sports Reporter

The No. 11 Gophers’ volleyball team made huge strides over the weekend and got back on track following a 4-set win over then-No. 14 Stanford and a 5-set win over then-No. 11 Oregon. Minnesota is back to .500 and finally saw its rank rise following two straight weeks of it dropping.

The challenge in Eugene, Ore., marked the end to a difficult start for the Gophers. In their first six matches, five teams ranked inside the top-25. Minnesota found itself 2-3 against ranked opponents.

In the teams’ first match of the weekend redshirt senior Stephanie Samedy shined for the Gophers. Samedy tallied a match-high 20 kills to go alongside 14 digs and three blocks to lead Minnesota to a 3-1 win.

Outside sophomore Jenna Wenaas and outside redshirt senior Airi Miyabe both contributed big kills for Minnesota in its route to victory. Wenaas was second on the team in kills with 17 and Miyabe was close behind with 14 of her own.

The combination of the three alongside an attack that hit .329 was too much for the Cardinals to handle. Stanford was able to grab their only set win in the second frame, but a strong finish by Minnesota overpowered the Cardinals.

The second match of the weekend gave the Gophers more of a challenge and featured a come-from-behind victory over the Ducks. Minnesota was able to take an early 1-0 lead over Oregon, but back-to-back set wins from the Ducks put the Gophers in a hole.

With their backs against the wall, Wenaas, Samedy and Miyabe had excellent performances in the fourth set to force a fifth set. It was the first time this season Minnesota had a match go five sets. Fortunately, the Gophers were on the right side to give them two straight wins for the first time this season, both coming against top-15 ranked teams.

On top of another strong performance from Samedy, Wenaas and Miyabe, redshirt senior Katie Myers played a huge part in the come-from-behind win. She totalled nine kills to go along with a team-high eight blocks. On the defensive side, senior CC Mcgraw registered a match-best 30 digs.

Minnesota returns home following a successful weekend and will get ready to host St. Thomas on Thursday, Sept. 16 in the Diet Coke Classic.