Gophers volleyball heating up ahead of back-to-back top-15 matches

Minnesota has won four of its last five to improve to 6-2 in conference play.

Sophomore+Jenna+Wenaas+spikes+the+ball+in+a+match+against+Texas+at+Maturi+Pavillion+in+Minneapolis%2C+Minn.+on+Wednesday%2C+Sept.+1%2C+2021

Brad Rempel- Gopher Athletics

Sophomore Jenna Wenaas spikes the ball in a match against Texas at Maturi Pavillion in Minneapolis, Minn. on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021

by AJ Condon

The Gopher volleyball team has had its ups and downs this season, but they are currently riding a three-game winning streak heading into a tough weekend.

“It’s been a nice run and we continue to make improvements in some pretty important areas. We’ll learn a lot this weekend, but I’m feeling pretty good about where we’re at,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “We’ll go play hard and see what happens.”

No. 12 Minnesota is set to face No. 14 Penn State on Friday and No. 6 Ohio State on Sunday for its first two matches against ranked opponents since being swept by then-No. 5 Wisconsin.

Since the loss to Wisconsin, the Gophers defeated Michigan State, Indiana and beat Northwestern twice, while dropping a match against Michigan.

This time around will be the first meeting between both teams this season, and the Gophers will be at the Pav in front of an energetic crowd. However, Minnesota will have to face them both on the road next meeting.

“It’s been great, [the] fans are wonderful. To be able to play with fans, to feel that energy in the building, it’s awesome. That’s part of the deal when you come here, it’s part of the package,” McCutcheon said.

This is the third time this season the Gophers are set to play back-to-back games against ranked opponents — top-15 opponents for that matter.

It started with then-No. 1 Texas and then-No. 5 Florida in just the second weekend of action. The Gophers had no break in between top ranked matches as the following weekend featured then-No. 14 Stanford and then-No. 11 Oregon.

“It’s rigorous,” McCutcheon said of the tough scheduling. “It’s a battle, no doubt. It’s challenging, but our kids are learning to grind and so far they’ve been doing pretty well.”

In ranked matches, the Gophers are 2-4 thus far, but have plenty of opportunities ahead to close out the season.