Gopher volleyball sweeps Northwestern in return to the Pav

After four straight road matches, Minnesota made quick work of the Wildcats in strong fashion.

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. 12 Gopher volleyball team hosted Northwestern Wednesday night after a long road trip to close out its season series against the Wildcats. Minnesota left victorious in a quicker match than the first time around winning in three sets.

“The one thing you learn from the last time is you gotta respect this team, not that we didn’t last time… We’re good at home, Northwestern is good at home, I was just really proud we were able to find a way to win that night and obviously build off that performance today,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

The Gophers got off to a quick start in the first set behind a strong performance from sophomore Jenna Wenaas. After the Wildcats took a 2-1 lead, Wenaas and the Gophers went on a 8-1 run to jump out to a 9-3 lead.

Northwestern continued to battle and managed to cut the damage in half with a 6-3 run of its own. The Wildcats managed to stay within striking distance after that, but could never quite stop the Gophers.

Redshirt senior Airi Miyabe played a big role for Minnesota in the first set as well, matching Wenaas with five kills. Miyabe finished the first set with a .625 hit percentage while Wenaas was at .444. The Gophers took the first set 25-20.

“I think we got started off strong and we set the pace and we kept to it, which I think also really important that we were able to just keep it going,” Wenaas said on the first set setting the tone for the night.

The Wildcats got off to an early 4-2 lead in the second set, but it would stand as their only lead of the set. Minnesota would go on to take control of the second set behind a 13-2 run including the second successful challenge by McCutcheon.

It was a team effort in the second set to give the Gophers a 2-0 lead. Minnesota picked up three more service aces, but only needed 11 kills in this set to pick up the win. The Gophers picked up a 25-10 win behind redshirt senior Stephanie Samedy who led the way with three kills.

The Gophers had no interest in going to five sets again with the Wildcats and got off to a quick lead. Northwestern didn’t have a lead the whole set as Minnesota jumped out to a 7-3 lead to force a Wildcats’ timeout.

Minnesota wasn’t done there, and continued to extend its lead. The Gophers had some help from the Wildcats making errors but nonetheless earned a three-set sweep. Northwestern gave the Gophers a total of 13 points in the final set between attack and service errors.

“There was good defensive discipline, the team was in good spots, but also we were able to keep it on them. I think there’s a tendency, when you feel like you’re in control, to maybe get a little loose, but the team didn’t, they stayed locked in,” McCutcheon said.

The final set came out 25-14 in favor of Minnesota. Miyabe led the way with 11 kills total while Samedy was right behind with 10 of her own.

The Gophers are back in action Sunday as Indiana comes to town for the first matchup of the season.

“It was really good to be home, it’s always fun playing in the Pav when it’s full, and even when it’s not full it’s super loud. It’s just awesome, we love playing at home,” Wenaas said.

Correction: a previous version of this story misspelled Jenna Wenaas’ last name.