Minnesota (24-4, 16-3) got down two sets to none, had to save a match point in the third set, and needed three match points of their own before they dispatched the reigning National Champion Nebraska Huskers (26-2, 17-2).
The Gophers never trailed in the fifth. They started strong, getting out to a 5-2 lead. Minnesota, however, was never able to extend their lead. On the doorstep of match point, up 13-11, Nebraska got back-to-back kills to tie the set. Hannah Tapp hit a nice cut shot down the line to give Minnesota their first match point, 14-13. Alexis Hart missed her serve giving Nebraska new life. Great defense prolonged a rally til Sarah Wilhite was able to slam one cross court between the Husker blockers. Next point, the Nebraska block was there denying Paige Tapp at the right pin. Nebraska repaid the favor from earlier on the next serve, missing the sideline giving Minnesota their third match point, 16-15. Wilhite and Molly Lohman got in front a hit from Brianna Holman, but Nebraska was able to keep it off the floor; setter Kelly Hunter tried to send it over, but was called for double-hit giving Minnesota the win 17-15.
Minnesota got down early in the first set, falling behind 7-3. The Gopher defense though was locked in keeping Minnesota close. Down 15-12, Minnesota ran off five in a row to take the lead. A Nebraska service error started the run which featured two Hart kills, a four hits call on Nebraska and sister-to-sister connection as Paige Tapp put up a nice set that Hannah put down the front of the Husker block. Nebraska quickly took the lead back 18-17, and from there the teams traded points til a 21-all tie. The Huskers closed out the set with a 4-0 run, winning 25-21.
Minnesota left the door open in the second set, and Nebraska took advantage finishing the set on a 7-1 run, dropping Minnesota 25-22. Up 21-18, the Gophers could not find the court; twice Minnesota hit it out and two more times Nebraska denied them at the net. Earlier in set it was Minnesota who went on a run, 7-2, to go in front.
The break between sets allowed the team to refocus, according to Sarah Wilhite, “In between sets two and three we talked in the locker room; just about playing Gopher Volleyball and not really worrying about what Nebraska’s doing, but then making changes on our side.”
Backs against the wall, Minnesota grinded out a win the the third set, 28-26, with the help of their middles; P Tapp, H Tapp, and Lohman. The trio combined for 11 kills and 4 blocks. The lead changed hands eight times in the set, and the score was tied 16 times. Nineteen-all, Nebraska controlled the net putting down three kills and registering a block to go up 23-20. The middles, P Tapp and Lohman answered the bell, helping Minnesota get their first set point of night, 24-23. Nebraska put down a kill and served up at ace, earning a match point 25-24. A deft tip from Lohman over the block on the first ball kept Minnesota in the match. A Gopher block put Minnesota up 26-25. Nebraska got a kill from Kadie Rolfzen on the first ball to draw Nebraska even with Minnesota. Hart answered for Minnesota, and Nebraska put one into the tape on the next point earning them a four hits call giving Minnesota the set 28-26.
Momentum from the third set carried over to fourth as the Gophers went up 5-0 right away. Minnesota eventually stretched their lead to nine, before winning the set 25-17. Wilhite had six kills and nine digs during the set. Minnesota hit .304.
Minnesota was led in kills and digs by Sarah Wilhite with 19 and 25 respectively. Hannah Tapp put away 16 kills and tallied three blocks. Alexis Hart had 13 kills on the night. Paige Tapp finished the night with 11 kills and four blocks. Molly Lohman was efficient putting down 9 kills on 15 swings (.533) in addition to seven blocks. The Gopher defense had 100 digs, in addition to Wilhite’s 25, Dalianliz Rosado had 20, Samantha Seliger-Swenson-19, Katie Schau- 15, and Alyssa Goehner- 14. Seliger-Swenson put up 59 assists. Minnesota hit .200 and had 10 blocks.
After the match Coach McCuthceon praised his teams resilience, “To me it was not so much about the good plays, it was what was happening after we didn’t make a good play. The resilience that we showed, I thought, being able to sideout after an error or service error. That was really a big characteristic, the resilience that we showed.”
Hannah Tapp echoed the sentiment, “I think that we try our best to be proud and confident in what we do so we can stay composed in the heat of battle, and we did a good job of that tonight.”
Minnesota will be back in action Saturday night at 7:30 against #3 Wisconsin. The match is sold out, and will be on BTN.