Great play from outside hitters Alexis Hart and Sarah Wilhite help the Gophers (23-4, 15-3) pick up the wins over Michigan State and Michigan in extended sets.
Freshman, Alexis Hart, played like a veteran who’s been slugging it out with the best of the Big Ten for a couple years, not months in the win over #13 Michigan State. Hart hit .419 putting away 20 kills in the five-set win, including five kills in the deciding set.
Hart was clutch for the Gophers in the fifth set, twice putting down a kill when Michigan State had set point. Minnesota had a sizable lead at the changeover, 8-4, but Sparty stayed aggressive and took the lead later, 11-10. The lead kept changing hands and MSU got the first match point. Alexis Hart slammed one home, getting the quick sideout and kept Minnesota alive, 14-14. Michigan State returned the favor on Minnesota’s first match point. After committing a hitting error that gave Michigan State a second match point, Hart redeemed herself with another kill to tie the set at 16. Wilhite put one down on the next point getting the Gophers match point again. Michigan State who had success tooling the block all night, misfired, missing the block and ball landed out giving Minnesota the 18-16 win.
Michigan State came out swinging in the first set, which led to mistakes. Twice Spartans errors fueled four point Gopher runs in the first set as Minnesota won 25-17.
The errors didn’t end for Michigan State in the second set. Minnesota was only up one, 15-14 when they put together a six point run. The run started with a Paige Tapp-Molly Lohman block and featured five Spartan miscues. One which was tallied as a kill for Dalianliz Rosado, as the Spartans mishandled a free ball from the libero. Minnesota went on to win 25-18.
The third set was a game of runs, and with each run the lead changed hands. Michigan State’s big guns finally started to find the court and they caught fire at the service line. Minnesota was up 15-13 when the Spartans went on a 6-0 run. The Gophers couldn’t put together a final run and fell 25-21. Michigan State hit .303 during the set, rebounding from a .000 effort in set two, and served five aces.
An early Spartan run doomed Minnesota in the fourth set. Minnesota found themselves down 10-3 after a six point MSU run. With the help of a passionate crowd at the Pav, the Gophers put together a run late to give themselves some momentum heading into the pivotal fifth set. Sparked by a suspect double-contact call on Samantha Seliger-Swenson, Minnesota ran off six in a row to trim Michigan State’s lead from double figures to five, 23-18. The Gophers ended up losing three points later, 25-19.
Hart was the match kill leader with 20 on 43 swings with only two errors (.419). Sarah Wilhite put away 18 kills. Samantha Seliger-Swenson put up 45 assists. Dalianliz Rosado pulled up 21 digs and Katie Schau had 14. Hannah Tapp and Molly Lohman both had three blocks. The team hit .272 and had only four blocks.
Michigan provided a different kind of test for Minnesota Sunday afternoon. The Wolverines weren’t nearly as physical, but they were pesky and scrappy prolonging rallies and frustrating Minnesota hitters. Only one set was decided by more than the necessary two point margin.
Minnesota started the fifth set strong racing out to a 5-1 lead. Michigan answered with a 7-1 run as the Gophers hit a little rough patch. Resilient and battle-tested the Gophers hung in there. After a successful Wolverine challenge that reversed a call and kept Michigan in front, the Gophers got two kills from Sarah Wilhite and block from Paige Tapp and Molly Lohman to go in front 13-11. A Michigan tip that missed the back corner gave the Gophers their first match point. Minnesota was denied once, then Michigan sailed a serve long giving Minnesota a 15-12 win.
Minnesota never trailed in the first set, and carried a six point lead through the middle of the set, yet they only ended up winning 25-23. Michigan closed late and denied Minnesota three times on set point.
Neither team led by more than two in the second set as they traded blows all set long as there were 16 ties and eight lead changes. Late in the set, Seliger-Swenson called her own number, twice delivering beautiful setter dumps. The first dropped in the middle of the court to put Minnesota up 21-20. Later she tipped a tight pass to the deep corner to break a 22-all tie. The teams traded errors, and Wilhite capped the set off, throwing one off the blockers hands and down to get the 25-23 win.
Minnesota surrendered the lead early in the third set and never was able to completely recover. Michigan ran off six in a row to go up 12-7. A Michigan service error kept Minnesota alive and they drew within one, 24-23, after a huge block from H. Tapp. However, a heads up play from the Michigan middle closed the set, 25-23, as she tipped a tight pass over for a kill.
Minnesota scored first in the fourth set then trailed the rest of the set. Michigan answered the bell each time Minnesota drew within one. Later in the set Minnesota was able to tie the score at 19 and 20, but Michigan never gave up their lead. Down 22-21, it appeared as though a Michigan attack didn’t even clear the net, the refs didn’t agree with Coach McCutcheon or the crowd, and Michigan went on to win the point. Wilhite did her best to prolong the set twice striking with a kill on set point. Down 24-23 Minnesota never had a chance as Michigan put down a kill on the first ball.
Sarah Wilhite led Minnesota with 26 kills, .309 hitting, and 13 digs. Alexis Hart followed up her 20-kill performance with 14 against Michigan. Hannah Tapp added 11 kills and tallied five blocks. Molly Lohman hit .364 to go with seven blocks. Paige Tapp had five blocks. Samantha Seliger-Swenson had a great night with a career high seven kills to go with 55 assists, 13 digs, and two aces. Dalianliz Rosado led the defense with 24 digs. Alyssa Goehner and Katie Schau both cracked double digit digs with 12 and 10 respectively. Minnesota did better blocking against Michigan posting 12 blocks and hit .283.
The Gophers will be back in action Wednesday night against #1 Nebraska at 8:00 CT. Saturday evening at 7:30 CT Minnesota will face #3 Wisconsin. Both matches are sold out but will air on BTN.