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Gopher Volleyball Keeps Pace in Conference Race

A few teams have had the No. 6 Gophers on the ropes over the last week but they have come away with three wins over the stretch. Sunday they’ll face another tough test as they face the No. 16 Boilermakers. Also in this post we pay tribute to the late Mike Hebert

Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune. Minneapolis, MN., Monday, 11/29/04. Gophers Volleyball Coach Mike Hebert worked with his players during practice at the Sports Pavilion. Photo by BRUCE BISPING/Star Tribune via Getty Images

The Gophers (16-3, 10-1) had to play extra sets in each of their last three matches as they got by Michigan in five sets, Michigan State in four, and Ohio State in five. After surviving the Michigan road trip and stopping back at the Pav for one match the Gophers are back on the road as they travel to West Lafayette to face Purdue Sunday at 12:00 CT on ESPN2.

Michigan Recap

Minnesota got the reverse sweep; 22-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-18, 15-13, against Michigan with steady offense and incredible blocking. The Gophers hit .310 on the match and tallied 16 blocks.

Set five got off to a rocky start as the Gophers found themselves down 8-5. Hugh went with the blocking sub and it paid dividends. After another Wolverine hitting error, Minnesota turned into a wall getting four blocks in a row as Regan Pittman combined with Alexis Hart for one and Rubright for the other three as the Gophers went up 11-8. Michigan made one last run and tied the set at 12 and again at 13. Minnesota though got a kill from Samedy to get to set point which was clinched with a solo stuff by Taylor Morgan.

Set one was all about the offense as both teams hit over .350; Minnesota was outhit .372-.353. Minnesota was up late but it slipped away from the Gophers as Michigan finished the set on a 5-1 run.

Set two played out similarly as the Gophers let it slip it through their fingers. Minnesota fought back and tied the set at 23 but couldn’t get the final two points. The Gopher offense which hit .483 over set just didn’t have enough pop to finish the set as Michigan went up two sets to none.

Minnesota nearly blew a 19-14 lead in set three but regrouped to get the win. After Michigan closed the margin to one, 22-21, the Gophers got a kill and two Michigan hitting errors to clinch the set.

Needing to force a fifth set Minnesota was able to put together a big run to get a comfortable lead. Up 15-14 the Gophers opened it up with a 5-0 run.

Regan Pittman did a little bit of everything tallying a double-double with 10 kills and 11 blocks to go with .348 hitting, three assists, four digs, and two aces. Alexis Hart led with 20 kills and .378 hitting. Stephanie Samedy and Adanna Rollins also both posted double-doubles with 12 kills and 13 digs, and 11 kills and 10 digs respectively; Samedy added two aces and Rollins hit .300. McMenimen racked up 49 assists. CC McGraw led the defense with 17 digs and two aces.

Michigan State Recap

Minnesota dominated the serve-pass battle as they racked up 11 aces in the win over Sparty; 25-21, 25-20, 26-28, 25-18.

It took a few set points but Minnesota finally closed it out in set out. The Gophers sizable lead started to dwindle late but it was still too much for Sparty to overcome. Finally, on the fifth set point, Regan Pittman was able to put one to the floor to finish it off.

Michigan State collapsed late committing errors on the last two points of set two as Minnesota finished the set on a 5-0 run.

Minnesota saved three set points in set three but never earned a set point of their own as Michigan State forced a fourth set.

Minnesota ran out to a 6-1 lead to set four and just kept rolling; The Spartans had four unforced errors in the first seven points.

Regan Pittman had another incredible match posting 19 kills, .484 hitting, three aces, and five blocks. McMenimen had 38 assists. Taylor Morgan was the leading blocker with six, including four solo. CC McGraw also posted three aces to match Pittman. Stephanie Samedy led the defense with 11 digs.

Ohio State Recap

It was a complete team effort as nearly everyone off the bench played in the marathon match. Minnesota had their backs against the wall, even saving a match point as they won 25-19, 19-25, 22-25, 25-10, 17-15.

Minnesota was on the right end of a back-and-forth fifth set as there were six lead changes and nine ties. The Gophers got to match point, 14-13, on a Buckeye hitting error which unfortunately they repaid the favor after Ohio was able to sideout on Minnesota’s first match point giving Ohio State a match point opportunity. Looking to extend the match Minnesota got a kill from Rollins who two points later clinched the match for Minnesota 17-15.

Minnesota went up 7-2 in set one and it was the difference as Minnesota was able to sideout frequently enough to stay in front.

Set two though got off to a rocky start. Ohio State broke a 5-all tie with a 8-0 run getting two aces and four kills in transition. The Buckeyes lead ballooned to 12 before Minnesota fought back and cut the final margin to six.

Looking for an offensive spark and to address some defensive issues the Gophers switched to a 6-2 offense in set three throwing Tamara Dolonga in to set and Airi Miyabe to hit. They had to play from behind in set three and their rally came up just short. A 4-1 Gopher rally cut a five-point Buckeye lead to two, 23-21, but it wasn’t enough. Minnesota saved one set point but Ohio State was able to close it out with a kill.

Looking to force a fifth set the Minnesota offense left no doubt with a .500 hitting effort, 15-0-30. The Gophers finished the set on a 9-0 run which began with four kills from Alexis Hart.

Stephanie Samedy led the Gophers with 18 kills, .280 hitting, 14 digs, and seven blocks. Alexis Hart put away 15 kills while hitting .371. Adanna Rollins also had a double-double with 12 kills and 11 digs. Bayley McMenimen put up 27 assists to go with 13 digs and Tamara Dolonga finished with 14. Regan Pittman had a rough night offensively but still posted nine blocks. Ellie Husemann finished with eight blocks as she played in place of Taylor Morgan. CC McGraw finished with three aces and 22 digs.

Minnesota outhit and out-blocked Ohio State .253-.160, and 17-9 respectively.

Weekend Preview

Wins are wins no matter how ugly they are and that certainly holds true for the Gophers as they escaped with two, two-point, five-set wins over the last week. This weekend though they face a much more talented team than any of the three they played last week. For Minnesota, it may not matter what anyone is doing on the other side of the net, instead how well they can execute their offense whether that is a 5-1 or a 6-2 system. The player most impacted by the switch offensively, besides the new hitter Airi Miyabe, is middle blocker, Regan Pittman. She’s been on a tear offensively, Ohio State match excepting, and defensively, doing a good job closing the block and getting good touches. The switch to a 6-2 offense though does complicate things as she can’t run the slide unless they bring the right-side hitter around to the middle of the floor. Also establishing that connection with a new setter is important. As long as Minnesota can figure out how to get her the ball they should be able to get the road win.

Key Players

class, height, position, # name, stats (statistical rank nationally, in the conference)
Positions: MB- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, RS- right side hitter, DS- defensive specialist, L- libero, S- setter
Stats: K/S- kills/set, B/S- blocks/set, D/S- digs/set. .000- hitting percentage, A/S- assists/set SA/S- service aces/set

So. 5’9 L 7 CC McGraw- 4.36 D/S (3), 0.29 SA/S (15)

Jr.. 6’2 RS 10 Stephanie Samedy- 3.6 K/S (6), .245, 2.85 D/S, 0.9 B/S

Sr. 6’0 MB 12 Taylor Morgan- 2.08 K/S, .345 (8), 1.16 B/S (9)

So. 5’9 S 13 Bayley McMenimen- 7.69 A/S (11)

Sr. 6’0 OH 19 Alexis Hart- 2.98 K/S, .261

So. 6’0 OH 20 Adanna Rollins- 2.44 K/S, 3.14 D/S

Jr. 6’5 MB 21 Regan Pittman- 2.46 K/S, .371 (45, 5), 1.43 B/S (12, 1)


The Boilers (15-5, 7-4) are playing some of their best volleyball of the season right now coming off a five-set win over Nebraska and thumping of IU. Lineup changes have been in key in sparking the better play. Purdue shored up their passing and floor defense as they switched sophomore Marissa Hornung to libero two weeks ago and they no longer play Grace Cleveland all six rotations instead opting for four; Cleveland comes out once Caitlyn Newton rotates to the back row so they keep four hitters on the floor for most rotations. The duo, Cleveland and Newton, though can be error-prone and if Minnesota can force early errors neither have been particularly resilient after rough starts a few blocks early on either and Purdue could be toast.

Key Players

So. 5’10 S 2 Hayley Bush- 10.71 A/S (38, 6), 2.09 D/S

Jr. 6’1 OH 4 Caitlyn Newton- 3.72 K/S (5), 0.29 SA/S (15)

Sr. 6’2 MB 9 Shavona Cuttino- .313 (14), 1.32 B/S (26, 3)

So. 5’7 DS 10 Marissa Hornung- 3.3 D/S (14)

Sr. 6’2 M 17 Blake Mohler- 2.18 K/S, .337 (10), 1.29 B/S (43, 4)

Jr. 5’10 DS 19 Jena Otec- 3.97 D/S (5), 0.42 SA/S (2)

So. 6’3 OH 20 Grace Cleveland- 3.32 K/S (10), .247, 1.12 B/S (11)

Mike Hebert Tribute

The forefather of Gopher Volleyball, Mike Herbert, passed away on October 21, age 75. We at The Daily Gopher want to extend our condolences to his family, friends and all who knew and loved him.

Hebert helmed the Gopher program from 1996-2010 leading the team to new heights Hebert’s teams only missed the NCAA Tournament once in his 15 years while amassing a 381-137 record (.736). During the 2002 campaign, he won Minnesota’s first Big Ten Championship. His success in the NCAA tournament has yet to be surpassed as the 2004 squad made the school’s first Final Four and National Championship appearance finishing as the runners-up. In total, his teams made the second weekend eight times and three Final Fours. At the U he also coached future Olympians, Lindsey Berg and Nicole Branagh.

The Long Beach, California native enjoyed the bulk of his success leading programs east of the Mississippi as he was a head coach for 35 years finishing with a 952-392 record.

His first job was at Pitt where he coached their women’s and men’s teams posting winning records with both teams and winning two conference championships with the women’s teams.

He then went out west briefly to New Mexico posting a 60-57 record and NCAA regional appearance.

He then came to the midwest leading the Illinois program from 1983-1995. The Illini made two Final Fours under his guidance. In 1988 they became the first team east of the Mississippi to rise to No. 1 in the polls. He also led the program to four Big Ten Championships and was named the AVCA National Coach of the Year in 1985.

Hebert also coached with Team USA leading multiple teams over the years.

In 2006 he was inducted in the AVCA Hall of Fame and later the Minnesota M Club Hall of Fame in 2011.

Hebert’s impact on Minnesota volleyball can still be seen today. While there already was plenty of talent in the metro and around the state he helped the sport continue to grow. He did clinics with clubs and his Gopher teams showed just how successful a program up North could be. The tournament runs and success have no doubt inspired many local athletes to play at the highest level.

Big Ten Standings

Standings Conf. Pct. Overall Pct. Streak Most recent B1G Games Up Next
Standings Conf. Pct. Overall Pct. Streak Most recent B1G Games Up Next
Wisconsin 11-0 1.000 15-4 0.789 W11 W 3-0 vs MARY, W 3-1 @ MICH @ IU, @ OSU
Minnesota 10-1 0.909 16-3 0.842 W5 W 3-2 vs OSU, W 3-1 @ MSU @ PUR, @ MARY
Penn State 9-1 0.900 16-3 0.842 W7 W 3-0 @ MARY, W 3-2 vs ILL @ IOWA, @ NEB
Nebraska 8-2 0.800 16-3 0.842 L1 L 2-3 @ PUR, W 3-1 @ IU vs RUT, vs PSU
Purdue 7-4 0.636 15-5 0.750 W4 W 3-0 vs IU, W 3-2 vs NEB vs MN, @ RUT
Michigan 6-4 0.600 13-7 0.650 L2 L 1-3 vs WIS, L 2-3 vs MN @ ILL, @ NW
Illinois 5-5 0.500 10-9 0.526 W1 W 3-0 vs OSU, L 2-3 @ PSU vs MICH, vs MSU
Michigan State 4-6 0.400 13-7 0.650 L3 L 1-3 vs MN, L 0-3 vs WIS @ NW, @ ILL
Maryland 4-7 0.364 12-11 0.522 L2 L 0-3 @ WIS, L 0-3 vs PSU @ OSU, vs MN
Ohio State 4-7 0.364 11-12 0.478 L2 L 2-3 @ MN, L 0-3 @ ILL vs MARY, vs WIS
Iowa 3-7 0.300 9-12 0.429 W1 W 3-2 @ IU, L 1-3 @ PUR vs PSU, vs RUT
Rutgers 1-9 0.100 7-14 0.333 W1 W 3-2 vs NW, L 1-3 @ OSU @ NEB, @ IOWA
Indiana 1-10 0.091 12-12 0.500 L7 L 0-3 @ PUR, L 2-3 vs IOWA vs WIS, @ PSU
Northwestern 0-10 0.000 9-13 0.409 L10 L 2-3 @ RUT, L 2-3 vs MARY vs MSU, vs MICH
Current standings as of 10-31-19

AVCA Poll Week 9

Rank School (First-Place Votes) 2019 Record Previous Week Result against
Rank School (First-Place Votes) 2019 Record Previous Week Result against
1 Texas (43) 14-2 4 L
2 Pittsburgh (18) 21-1 3 -
3 Baylor (1) 17-1 1 -
4 Wisconsin (1) 14-4 6 L
5 Stanford (1) 14-4 2 W
6 Minnesota 15-3 7 -
7 Penn State 16-3 8 -
8 Nebraska 16-3 5 -
9 Creighton 17-3 10 -
10 Marquette 19-3 11 -
11 BYU 18-3 12 -
12 Washington 16-4 9 -
13 Florida 17-3 13 W
14 Colorado State 20-1 14 -
15 Kentucky 15-5 16 -
16 Purdue 14-5 20 W
17 Utah 14-7 18 -
18 Rice 19-1 19 -
19 Illinois 10-9 17 W,W
20 California 17-3 15 -
21 Hawai'i 18-3 21 -
22 Washington State 18-4 24 -
23 Western Kentucky 23-1 23 -
24 Missouri 14-4 25 -
25 UCLA 12-7 NR -

Baylor fell from No. 1 after being swept by Texas in Austin. Nebraska dropped out of the top five after falling on the road to Purdue.

Ranked Big Ten teams: #4 Wisconsin, #6 Stanford, #7 Penn State, #8 Nebraska, #16 Purdue, #19 Illinois, RV Michigan

RPI Standings

RPI School Result
RPI School Result
1 Baylor -
2 Texas L
3 Wisconsin L
4 Stanford W
5 Pittsburgh -
6 Washington -
7 Nebraska -
8 Kentucky -
9 Minnesota -
10 Florida W
11 Texas A&M -
12 Penn State -
13 Marquette -
14 Rice -
15 UCLA -
18 Purdue W
35 Flordia State L
36 Illinois W, W
40 Michigan W
50 Ohio State W
53 Michigan State W
58 Iowa W
61 North Carolina W
66 Oregon W
84 Indiana W
93 Northwestern W
94 Maryland -
113 Clemson W
119 Rutgers W
263 Oral Roberts W
Current RPI Standings as of 10-27-19