Gophers fall to Pepperdine, edge Washington State

The Gophers lost game one against Pepperdine but won game two against Washington State in the 2022 Diet Coke Classic.

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 Alex Karwowski

Sept. 15: vs. No. 22 Pepperdine

The first game of the Diet Coke Classic kicked off on Thursday with a matchup between the No. 6 ranked Golden Gophers and No. 22 ranked Pepperdine Waves.

After a back-and-forth start, Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon called a pair of timeouts as Pepperdine began to cut into their 11-6 lead. Coming out of the break, Jenna Wenaas nailed a kill, tying the game at 25, leading Minnesota to take the first set 28-26.

After a kill from freshman Mckenna Wucherer and blocks from Ellie Husemann and Wenaas, Minnesota jumped out to a 3-0 lead in set No. 2. However, Pepperdine controlled the rest of the set, winning 25-20 and tying the match.

Set three was nothing short of a struggle for the Gophers. Pepperdine started out strong, scoring 11 of the first 13 points to put them up with a very significant 11-2 lead. An ace from Elise McGhie and a kill from Taylor Landfair gave the Gophers serious momentum, cutting the deficit to 25-18 but ultimately falling short.

Initially, set four was not much better for the Gophers. Pepperdine scored five of the first six points, leading to an early Minnesota timeout. The Waves had a predominant lead, but a fire ignited within the Gophers as they went on a 6-2 run midway through the set with kills from Carter Booth, Landfair and Wucherer. It was too little too late though, as Pepperdine won a third straight set and the match.

Redshirt-sophomore Landfair totaled double digits for kills the seventh time this season and 25th time in her career. In total, she scored 16 kills against Pepperdine. In her college debut, true freshman and top recruit, Wucherer, impressed, scoring 13 kills.

Sept. 17: vs. Washington State

The Gophers’ weekend ended with a Saturday night tilt against Washington State in their final non-conference game of the season.

Minnesota went on a pivotal 5-0 scoring run to take an early 10-5 lead in the first set, forcing the Cougars to call a timeout. After the break, another 5-0 Gophers’ scoring run led by blocks from Melani Shaffmaster and Husemann, an ace from CC McGraw and a kill from Wenaas ultimately led to a dominant 25-16 first set victory.

The Gophers dominated set number two. It was one of the best all season for Minnesota, hitting .565 with multiple kills from Landfair, Booth, Wucherer, Husemann and Wenaas, winning 25-13.

With their back against the wall, the Cougars took an early lead in the third set, scoring seven of the first eleven points. It was a back-and-forth affair, but after a brief media timeout, the Cougars were able to build on their 18-15 lead. Two late kills from Booth and Wucherer tied the game at 24, but Washington State scored the last two, winning the third set 26-24.

The fourth set started with a kill from Washington State’s Katy Ryan. This, however, would be the only time Minnesota trailed in the set. Minnesota would eventually win the final set and match 25-20.

Minnesota moves to 5-3 for the 2022 season and will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana to play Purdue on Friday in its Big Ten season opener.