Gophers volleyball follows close loss with Sunday sweep

The Gophers will wrap up the regular season this coming weekend with two top ten ranked matchups.

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Ethan Fine

McKenna Wucherer goes up to spike the ball during the Gophers’ game against Wisconsin, Sept. 25.

by Alex Karwowski

Nov. 18 vs. Penn State

The Gophers had an early 5-3 lead over Penn State in the first set, but the Nittany Lions responded with a 4-1 scoring run. Penn State built on this lead to put the score at 17-15, forcing a timeout from Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

Following the timeout, Penn State capped off their 9-2 run at 21-17, ultimately winning the set 25-18.

The two teams went back and forth in the early portion of set two, exchanging the first 14 points. The Nittany Lions broke away on a 3-0 run and extended their lead to 15-11 heading into a media timeout. The Gophers couldn’t seem to find any rhythm, dropping the second set 18-25.

Much like set two, neither team led by more than one point to start the third set, but Minnesota finally took a two-point lead at 11-9 following a Penn State service error and a pivotal kill from Carter Booth. After a media timeout, Minnesota’s lead grew to 17-11.

Penn State cut the lead to four after a 4-0 run, but freshman Mckenna Wucherer ended the run with an important kill, bringing the score to 23-17. Minnesota took set three 25-20, forcing a fourth set.

Penn State had the early lead in the fourth set scoring six of the first nine points. The two teams went back and forth on the scoreboard just before Penn State went up 15-12 heading into a media timeout. The Gophers were trailing 22-18 later in the set, but a 4-0 run tied the game at 22.

Penn State went up 24-23 just before Taylor Landfair threw down a kill to tie the game for the Gophers. Penn State ultimately prevailed, winning the set 27-25 and the match 3-1.

Minnesota’s record changed to 12-5 in Big Ten play and 17-8 overall. Wucherer returned to the lineup after a four-game absence and threw down nine kills. Melani Shaffmaster posted her 13th double-double of the season with 40 assists and 10 digs.

Nov. 20 vs. Rutgers

The Gophers looked to get back on track in New Jersey, taking on the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University.

Minnesota started strong, scoring six of the first nine points. They were able to expand on the early lead putting the score at 11-5. A 7-2 point run for the Gophers gave them control of the set and ultimately led to a 25-11 win.

The Gophers started the second set with two kills from Landfair and a Jenna Wenaas ace, resulting in a 6-3 lead. Minnesota’s momentum continued, the score going up to 10-5 and forcing a Rutgers timeout.

The Scarlet Knights put up a bit of a fight, cutting their deficit to 17-13, but Minnesota quickly regained control and outscored Rutgers in set two 25-19.

Unlike the first two, Rutgers got out in front early scoring three of the first five points in the third set. Kills from Arica Davis, Wenaas and Wucherer helped the Gophers take the lead at 7-5, but Rutgers immediately responded and tied the game at nine.

Minnesota eventually led 15-14, and the two teams would go back and forth until Rutgers took the lead at 22-19 late in set three. Minnesota tied it up at 23 after a solo block from Booth and a Shaffmaster kill.

The Scarlet Knights had the chance to win the set at 24-23, but the Gophers scored three straight to end it 26-24, winning the set and match.

Booth led the Gophers with eight kills and five blocks, while Davis hit a season high of eight blocks.

The Gophers will head into their final weekend of regular season gameplay where they will take on the No. 5 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and No. 6 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.