Gophers sweep at home in Diet Coke Classic

 In their first two home matches of the season, Gopher volleyball won against St. Thomas and Iowa State

The Gopher celebrate a sweep over Indiana at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

Jack Rodgers

The Gopher celebrate a sweep over Indiana at Maturi Pavilion on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018.

Julianna Landis , Sports Editor

 

After starting their season on the road, Minnesota returned to the Pav on Thursday to face St. Thomas for the first time in program history. The Gophers beat the Tommies in three sets Thursday night before facing Iowa State on Saturday, where they won in three sets for a second time. Their weekend performance moves their record to 5-3 on the season.

Thursday, Sept. 16 vs St. Thomas

The Tommies, who are playing in their first season at the Division I level since making the jump from Division III, had a 1-7 record ahead of Thursday’s match. Minnesota started off the first set with a four-point run following a Tommies service error.

Three kills from St. Thomas outside hitter Fran Egan put the Tommies on the board, but Minnesota cruised to a 12-4 lead before an attack error from Airi Miyabe started a four-point run for the Tommies, cutting Minnesota’s lead in half.

It was a back-and-forth game from there, with Minnesota unable to put together a run over three points until a kill from Shea Rubright started a run for Minnesota at 21-13 to bring the match to a close. Egan returned fire following a Miyabe kill to deny Minnesota at set point, gaining a side out for St. Thomas at 24-14.

A kill from Minnesota freshman Natalie Glenn on the next play ended the first set 25-14.

Minnesota pulled ahead quickly again in the second set, with a kill and three service aces from Jenna Wenaas helping put the Gophers ahead by 11-5. The Gophers held the Tommies to just three more points the entire set.

CC McGraw served through an eight-point run, her two service aces and kills from Wenaas and Glenn helping Minnesota to a 19-6 lead over the Tommies. Two kills from Miyabe brought the Gophers to match point. The Tommies again set to Egan on the outside, but a block from Miyabe and Anna Wolf secured the win at 25-8.

Minnesota dominated the third set, their first 13 points interrupted only by a kill from Egan at the 1-3 point. Despite their offense going toe-to-toe against Minnesota at points throughout the match, St. Thomas’ defense was spent by the third set.

They struggled receiving from Minnesota on serves and attacking, and called a timeout trailing 13-1. A six-point run put the Gophers ahead 20-3, but a kill from Lauren Galvin and several errors on Minnesota’s part put the score to 24-7 at match point, where an attack error by Egan ended the match.

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon said that even with the lopsided score in their first meeting, he was looking forward to having an in-state competitor in future seasons.

“ I think it’s great if you can play these matches and they can develop into, y’know, meaningful events over time… the build-up for their program is gonna take a while but that’s fine, I still think it’s important for the sport in our state that we continue to cultivate these inner-state competitions, I think they’re really important.” McCutcheon said.

Saturday, Sept. 18 vs Iowa State

After quickly dispatching the Tommies on Thursday night, Minnesota had a bit of a challenge against Iowa State in the first set, finding themselves down 11-5 midway through the set. They quickly recovered, going on a five-point run to close the gap. A service ace from CC McGraw tied the game 12-12, and Minnesota righted the ship from there.

Two more runs, four points and five points, respectively, secured a victory for Minnesota. A kill from sophomore Jenna Wenaas assisted by Melani Shaffmaster won at game point for a final score of 25-17.

The Cyclones pushed back in the second set, going nearly point for point against the Gophers in the first half of the set. A block on Wenaas from Iowa State’s Mariah Mitchell and Candela Herrera gave the Cyclones a 12-10 lead before Minnesota was able to respond with a four-point run.

It wasn’t enough to create some distance for Minnesota, and the Cyclones battled back to lead 17-15. Kills from Stephanie Samedy and Miyabe combined with attack errors from the Cyclones put together a much-needed run for Minnesota, helping them pull ahead to a 21-17 lead.

Multiple Iowa State service errors and kills from Samedy and Wenaas delivered the 25-19 win in the second set.

The third and final set was the best start of the match for Minnesota, who opened with a five-point run on the Cyclones. That early lead was needed insurance as the Cyclones fought hard to take a set off the Gophers.

They trailed Minnesota by just one after a kill by Ellie Husemann was answered by Kenzie Mantz with a kill for the Cyclones at the 20-21 point. Minnesota put together one last four-point run to complete their sweep with a 25-20 win over Iowa State.

Minnesota will begin Big Ten conference play on Friday, Sept. 24, at home against Michigan. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network with a start time of 8 p.m. CST.