Maryland and Ohio State made the Gophers earn it this weekend as Minnesota (24-2, 18-0) clinched the Big Ten Championship. Minnesota had to go four sets with Maryland Friday night before the Buckeyes forced a deciding fifth set in what was the final women’s volleyball match in historic St. John Arena in Columbus.
Maryland flipped the script on the Gophers Friday. Minnesota is usually balanced on offense but it was Maryland who had four hitters in double figures. Minnesota is usually low-error and doesn’t get blocked often; Friday night the Gophers had 23 hitting errors, 11 of which were blocks, as they were outhit .242-.209 and out-blocked 11-6. Despite all this, it wasn’t enough for the Terrapins to upset Minnesota as the Gophers won 17-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-20.
Minnesota was flat in set one while Maryland burst out of the gate; the Gophers were outhit .414-.133. Maryland never went on any big runs but they took the set on the strength of their passing as they only failed to sideout once during the course of the set.
Set two appeared to be more of the same as Minnesota couldn’t string two points together as Maryland was able to score a couple points each time they went back to serve. Down 14-8, that all changed. Stephanie Samedy put away a kill then went to the service line where she rattled off six straight points including an ace and two kills by Adanna Rollins who also teamed with Regan Pittman for a block. Minnesota never surrendered the lead and finished the set on a five-point run as Samedy took over with three kills and a block with Pittman.
Set three was back and forth as the teams traded runs. Minnesota came out on top as they made the last run. The Gophers saw a 20-17 lead disappear as Maryland strung together four points. Looking to go back in front Minnesota got kills from Samedy and Rollins and a Lauren Barnes ace. From there Minnesota sidedout with Samedy kills to clinch the set 25-23.
Set four was error-filled as Minnesota used two big runs to clinch the match. Minnesota was down 5-1 right off the bat. The Gophers quickly responded though answering with a 7-1 run to take the lead. Maryland tied it at 10-all but Minnesota again had an answer, winning seven of the next eight points to go up 17-11.
Adanna Rollins was one of three Gophers with a double-double tallying 19 kills and 10 digs while also leading the team with four blocks. Stephanie Samedy also had a double-double with 16 kills and 12 digs while hitting .361. Samantha Seliger-Swenson put 48 assists to go with 11 digs to earn her double-double. CC McGraw led the defense with 18 digs. Lauren Barnes had 11 digs to go with her three aces.
Ohio State Recap
Against the Buckeyes, Minnesota looked more like we used to but still had trouble dispatching the upstart Ohio State squad. The Gophers had less hitting errors Saturday than Friday despite an extra set. One thing that persisted was the slow start as Minnesota dropped set one and later set four as they won 23-25, 25-20, 25-13, 23-25, 15-11.
Neither team was able to sideout well in set one as the teams traded runs back and forth til late in the set. Two Gopher hitting errors gave Ohio State the lead for the last time 22-20. The Buckeyes repaid the favor with two hitting errors of their own before getting a kill to stay in front 23-22. Minnesota got a kill from Alexis Hart but wouldn’t score again as two Buckeye kills capped the set off.
A run early in set two was the difference for the Gophers as they were successful siding out down the stretch. Minnesota broke a 6-all tie with a quick run from Samedy as she tallied a kill and two aces to put Minnesota up three. The Gophers also closed the set strong with a 6-2 run to even the match at a set apiece.
Minnesota had little trouble in set three as they hit .379 and held Ohio State to a .000 effort. Minnesota went up 7-3 early and just kept building on their lead as the set wore on. The Gophers were able to get their middles involved often as Taylor Morgan had four kills and Regan Pittman five.
Ohio State led for nearly the whole fourth set as Minnesota was playing from behind as they tried to keep the match from a deciding fifth set. Midway through Ohio State broke a 14-all tie with a quick 4-0 run. The teams traded points for a stretch til Minnesota posted a 4-1 run to cut the lead to one, 22-21. Ohio State sidedout to close the set winning 25-23.
With the outright conference title on the line, Minnesota was focused in set five. After Ohio State tied the set at four Minnesota answered with a 6-2 run which included three kills from Pittman. The teams then traded points til Pittman capped the match off with a kill as the Gopher won 15-11.
Regan Pittman rebounded from a rough performance against Maryland to post 20 kills on 32 swings with one error, .594 hitting. She also had three aces, three blocks, and five digs. Taylor Morgan also made up for a rough night Friday with 11 kills and four blocks and .500 hitting against the Buckeyes. Alexis Hart hit .297 tallying 14 kills. Stephanie Samedy had a double-double as she led the Gophers in digs and aces; 17 kills, 21 digs, and five aces. CC McGraw posted 18 digs and Adanna Rollins had 10.
Minnesota outhit and out-blocked Ohio State .315-.207 and 7-4.
St. John Arena showed its age during the match as a bat briefly interrupted the action.
This weekend Minnesota will look to stay perfect as they face Penn State and Rutgers on the road. Should the Gophers run the table they’d be the first team to do so since Penn State in 2009 when they were perfect in conference play for three consecutive seasons en route to three National Championships.