Minnesota served the Badgers tough all night and it paid dividends as Wisconsin repeatedly was forced to play out of system and struggled to get into any sort of rhythm offensively in the three set win, 25-17, 25-21, 25-15. Lauren Barnes and Samantha Seliger-Swenson had multiple long service runs while leading the Gophers with three and two service aces respectively.
The Badgers also had no answer for Alexis Hart and Stephanie Samedy. Hart had one of the best matches of her career with 14 kills on 23 attempts with no errors, .609. Stephanie Samedy was nearly as impressive getting 14 kills on 22 swings with two errors, .545.
A night like tonight has been a long time coming for the duo which Coach McCutcheon noted, “Steph and for Lex they worked extremely hard in the offseason to really try to increase their range, by trying to work on their mechanics… They spent the time and energy to try and become more efficient in that regard and I think we’re starting to see some of the benefits of that. They both hit with a lot of range and it was a nice performance.”
Samedy was red hot to start the match converting her first seven swings for kills in set one. After surrendering the first two points, one via a Wisconsin challenge the Gophers went on a 7-1 run. Lauren Barnes had a nice service run and Minnesota was able to score in transition getting three kills from Samedy, two from Adanna Rollins, and one from Regan Pittman.
Wisconsin would draw within two, twice shortly thereafter but the Gophers were able to ride the hot hands of Samedy and Hart who had eight and five kills respectively in the set.
Wisconsin had the early advantage in set two as the Gophers struggled to pass the ball, being aced twice. Minnesota was already on serve put a nice play from CC McGraw helped spark a run for the Gophers. Down 10-9, CC McGraw one handed the second contact off a crazy dig which was sent over for a freeball. Dana Rettke then sailed it long when she tried to go hard cross court tying the score and swinging the momentum firmly back to the Gophers. Two more Badger errors and two Gopher kills put Minnesota in front 14-10.
While McGraw has made numerous nice plays Coach McCutcheon has been most impressed by how she’s acclimated to the college game, “Here she is standing and digging some pretty hard hit balls, here she is flying around in the back row, making a ton of great plays. I just thought it was an impressive performance. She’s getting better every week and it makes us better.”
Gophers had first serve in set three and Samantha Seliger-Swenson made good on it. Minnesota raced out to a 8-0 lead as Wisconsin burnt both timeouts trying stop the bleeding. Wisconsin sailed the first point of the match long then Seliger-Swenson dropped in ace. Taylor Morgan nearly had back-to-back overpass kills if not for a spectacular play by Wisconsin’s libergo Tiffany Clark, regardless Alexis Hart was able to end the rally with a roll shot hard cross. On the next point Minnesota got a block from Morgan and Samedy. The Gophers followed it up with free ball kills from Samedy and Hart before closing the run with one last Samedy kill. Wisconsin was only ever able to cut the margin to six the rest of of way as Minnesota outhit them .371-171.
For Coach Hugh McCutcheon this was a more complete match from his team which they had yet to put together this season, “I still have felt like we haven’t been firing on all cylinders and surely it seemed like we were a little closer to that tonight. I thought offensively we had good distribution and good efficiencies from all the hitters. On the defensive end, a lot of discipline, we were able to dig a lot of balls and turn a lot of opportunities”
Overall the Gophers outhit Wisconsin .386-.232 and were out-blocked by one, 4-3.
Samantha Seliger-Swenson posted 39 assists as she directed the offense masterfully as noted by Coach McCutcheon, “I feel like a lot of hitters were very successful because I thought Sam did a really nice job; good distribution, pretty even across the board. Just her ability to create at the net is pretty special.”
CC McGraw led the passers with 13 digs and Samedy had 10 to earn herself a double-double.
Minnesota was able to execute really well all night but Wisconsin still wasted some opportunities which was partially due to the Gophers. The Badgers struggled to convert their free ball chances and Dana Rettke had untimely errors which extended some Gopher runs. Rettke also tipped a few balls which again seemed like wasted opportunities.
Rettke had a solid match, 12 kills, .370 hitting but she didn’t get much help. Madison Duello and Grace Loberg finished with eight kills but Duello was the only serious threat besides Rettke for the Badgers. Molly Haggerty didn’t come to life til the third set when the match was all but decided she began to swing away and tallied four kills.
The rematch will be October 31st in Madison.
In the meantime the Gophers will face Indiana Saturday evening at 6:00.