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Gophers Dominate South Carolina in the Second Round

Minnesota moves on after sweeping South Carolina in a commanding three-set victory; the Gophers controlled every phase of the game. 

Jon Johnston

“Generally impressed,” was Coach Hugh McCutcheon’s reaction to his team’s effort as the Gophers swept South Carolina 25-12, 25-15, 25-15 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

Minnesota hit .384, tallied six blocks and served six aces as they picked apart a skilled South Carolina team who could never get on track. The Gamecocks finished the match hitting .147 and were outdone by the Gophers in every statistical category.

It wasn’t the blocking extravaganza that we saw from the night before but the Gophers dictated the match from net defensively which was noted by Coach McCutcheon. “I thought the blocking was good...Our block’s discipline allowed our defense to get better looks and make better plays behind them.”

Minnesota got off to a fast start in set one as they won the serve-pass battle. The Gamecocks weren’t able to generate quality opportunities and Minnesota picked up what they did send over.

South Carolina had just closed the margin from three to one, 10-9 when Minnesota really got rolling. Lauren Barnes went back to the service line after an Alexis Hart kill and proceeded to frustrate the Gamecock passers. Minnesota ran off six points on Barnes serve which included an overpass kill by Taylor Morgan off an errant serve receive and an ace from Barnes to go up 17-9.

Minnesota kept it up defensively, creating opportunities in transition and the Gophers sidedout on each South Carolina serve from then on. Minnesota hit .542 in the opening set and served three aces. Regan Pittman was a perfect 5-5 to start the match.

The Gopher offense cooled off in set two but Gamecock errors, service and hitting, made the difference as Minnesota continued to apply service pressure. The Gophers broke set two open with another big this time on Samantha Seliger-Swenson’s serve.

A Gamecock missed serve, one of five during the set, put Seliger-Swenson on the service line and she and the rest of the Gophers made them pay as they ran off nine points to go up 16-6. Seliger-Swenson had an ace and forced an overpass which Taylor Morgan put away over the run. Stephanie Samedy posted two of her six kills during the run, Morgan added another kill and combined with Hart for a block.

South Carolina finally got some offensive rhythm in set three but it wasn’t enough as the Gophers kept the foot on the pedal racking up 19 kills, hitting .472; Adanna Rollins, Pittman, and Samedy all had four kills during the set.

Minnesota made their run early in the third set. Down 4-3, Pittman rallied the Gophers connecting on three kills over a six-point run which also featured a Samedy ace and a kill from Rollins. Minnesota kept up the hot hitting as they converted on 10 of their first 13 attacks with no errors. The Gophers didn’t put together any other long runs but they steadily grew their lead scoring nearly two points to every Gamecock one.

Stephanie Samedy led the balanced Gopher attack with 12 kills and was one of four hitters to hit over .300, .345. Regan Pittman, Adanna Rollins, and Alexis Hart were all error-less tallying nine, eight, and seven kills respectively. Pittman was the leading blocker with four. Samantha Seliger-Swenson finished with 31 assists and three aces. CC McGraw and Rollins both recorded 11 digs to lead the team.

Rosemount native, and former Gopher, Brittany McLean had five kills and block in her return to the Pav.

Looking ahead Minnesota will host the regional next weekend. First up for the No. 2 Gophers is No. 15 Oregon who won the matchup between the teams earlier this season. No. 7 Nebraska and No. 10 Kentucky will square off in the other regional semi-final.

Elsewhere No. 1 Stanford will face No. 16 Washington State and Washington who beat No. 9 Creighton will face No. 8 Penn State in the other semi-final in that region. In the Illinois region the No. 3 Illini will play No. 14 Marquette while No. 6 Wisconsin will take on San Diego who upset No. 11 USC. Lastly, No. 4 BYU who didn’t drop a set this weekend will face Florida who beat Florida Gulf Coast who had taken out No. 13 UCF in the first round. The other regional semi-final will be between No. 5 Texas and Michigan upset No. 12 Pittsburgh.

Full Bracket