Gophers volleyball dominates Northwestern, sweeps season series
In the first game of their return to Maturi Pavilion for a four-match homestand, the No. 12 Gophers volleyball team swept Northwestern 25-20, 25-10, 25-14 to sweep their season series. “I thought it was a really impressive performance by our team,” Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “To be in control for big chunks of the […]
In the first game of their return to Maturi Pavilion for a four-match homestand, the No. 12 Gophers volleyball team swept Northwestern 25-20, 25-10, 25-14 to sweep their season series.
“I thought it was a really impressive performance by our team,” Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “To be in control for big chunks of the match the way that we were, I thought was impressive. I thought we, especially in the first set, were able to set the tone early. They made some nice plays, and we were able to weather the storm.”
The first six points of the match were split evenly between the Gophers (10-5, 5-2 Big Ten) and the Wildcats (7-11, 2-5). However, Minnesota quickly found its footing.
The Gophers went on an early six-point run as they gained a 9-3 lead over Northwestern. Despite a number of back-and-forth points, the Gophers’ lead never dipped below three points.
Redshirt senior Airi Miyabe and sophomore Jenna Wenaas set the tone early for the Gophers’ attack as they both earned five kills in the first set. Redshirt senior Stephanie Samedy led on the defensive end with five digs and three blocks.
“I think we started off strong,” Wenaas said. “We set the pace and kept to it, which I think was also really important that we were able to just keep it going.”
The Gophers trailed Northwestern 4-2 early in the second set, but they quickly got back into form as they went on three different runs that combined for a 13-2 run, giving them a 15-6 lead midway through the set.
After more back-and-forth action, the Gophers went on their fourth run of three or more points in the second set to extend their lead from 18-9 to 23-9. They closed out the set after a Northwestern service error and a kill from junior Shea Rubright.
The Gophers got points from a variety of attackers in set two. Samedy led the attack with three kills, while Wenaas, Miyabe and redshirt senior Katie Myers all added two.
“(Along with the outsides/opposites), the middles were good, too,” McCutcheon said. “We got them involved, and that really opens up spaces for everybody. Once the middle becomes a viable threat, then all of a sudden it makes it easier (for everyone else).”
Senior CC McGraw led the Gophers on defense in set two with eight digs. Samedy added four digs, and Rubright had two blocks.
Minnesota continued to dominate Northwestern in the third set. The Gophers went on a 9-2 run to take an 11-4 lead. They closed out the third set on a 9-5 run.
The match was much different than their first meeting 11 days ago. Northwestern won the first two games of their match in Evanston, Ill., but the Gophers clawed back with a 31-29 win in the fourth set and won the final set 15-7.
On Wednesday, the Gophers applied persistent pressure as point streaks defined their victory.
“We were able to keep it on them,” McCutcheon said. “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.”
Samedy posted her 54th career double-double after she had 10 kills and 12 digs while adding four blocks, an assist and a service ace.
Wenaas had an outstanding all-around performance with seven kills, four digs, three blocks and one assist.
Miyabe led the attack with 11 kills, while on defense McGraw had 15 digs and Rubright had six blocks.
The Gophers host Indiana at 2 p.m. Sunday, then close out the homestand the following weekend with a Friday match against No. 14 Penn State and a Sunday match against No. 8 Ohio State.