It’s been a busy and successful week for the most prominent of the Minnesota Gophers non-revenue fall sports. A big sweep out west for the Gopher volleyball team, the Gopher soccerr team still has not lost or given up a goal, and the women’s cross country team is building off one of their most successful seasons ever with the great start to the fall of 2021.
Volleyball bounces back:
The Gopher volleyball team had struggled against ranked non-conference opponents this season losing all three matches against ranked opponents. However they flipped that script this past weekend at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Eugene, Oregon sweeping a pair of matches against #14 Stanford and #11 Oregon.
The Gophers got things started on Friday night against the Cardinal. After splitting the first two sets 25-22 and 19-25 the Gophers took control of the match in the third set and would not give it up for the first time this season against a ranked opponent. The Gophers won the third 25-16 with Stephanie Samedy recording seven kills. They continues to dominate winning the fourth set 25-17 and earning a 3-1 victory in the match. Samedy would record 20 kills for the match to lead the way for Minnesota with Jenna Wennas right behind with a career high 17 kills.
The Gophers returned to the court Saturday night to take on the host Ducks. This one would be a back and forth five set battle. The two teams split the first two sets once again with the Gophers winning the opener 25-21 before falling in the next to to the Ducks 23-25 and 18-25. Oregon had a 17-15 lead in set 4, but the Gophers would come back. Bailey McMenimen made her first appearance of the season at setter replacing Melanie Shaffmaster who appeared to suffer a hand injury and promptly led the Gophers back on a 4-0 run and hold off Oregon 25-20 to force a fifth set. The fifth was all Minnesota. The Gophers used a pair of 4-0 runs to take a commanding lead at 11-5. Oregon came back to close to within 14-12, but Wennas would finish off the match with a kill and give Minnesota a huge weekend sweep. Samedy added another 20 kills on the night, and Wennas improved her career high set the night before with 19 kills on the match. Samedy was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for her efforts. She is averaging 5.21 kills per set which leads the conference and has her in the top five in the nation. CC McGraw earned Big Ten Defensive layer of the Week honors as well. She led the Gophers in digs in both matches and had an impressive 30 in the win over Oregon.
The Gophers return home this week for their final non-conference test before the Big Ten season starts. It will be a much easier road for the Gophers when they host the Diet Coke Classic at the Pav. Minnesota opens Thursday night with the first ever Division I game that counts in any sport against St. Thomas. The Gophers next take the court Saturday night when they host Iowa State. Both matches will stream on BTN+, but will be simulcast on Fox9+ in the Twin Cities.
Soccer opponents remain scoreless:
The Gopher soccer team continues to keep the ball out of their own goal, which is important. It was another pair of non-conference matches and another pair of shutouts for Minnesota as they completed the non-conference portion of their schedule unblemished with a 4-0-3 record.
Minnesota headed to Omaha to take on the Mavericks on Thursday night where they would earn a scoreless draw. Gopher goalkeeper Megan Plaschko made three saves to keep her scoresheet clean through six matches this season.
Saturday Minnesota returned home to host North Dakota in the non-conference finale. The Gophers would get goals from Maddie Baker and Makenzie Langdok and get another lone save from Plaschko to earn her sixth complete shutout on the season. Baker found a rebound in front of the Fighting Hawk net and used her upper body to push it in in the 41st minute for her first career goal.
Minnesota would make it 2-0 in the 84th minute with their first 2nd half goal on the season. Langdok scored the prettiest goal on the season when she ripped off a bender from the top of the box and found the upper corner of the net. It’s the sixth goal of her career, the most by any active Gopher player.
For her efforts in both games Langdok was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.
It has been an incredible start to the season for new Gopher coach Erin Chastain. This year is only the second time in program history the Gophers have come through the non-conference schedule without a loss. The only other time it occurred was in 2008 when the Gophers went 22-4 and advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. The seven game stretch of not allowing a goal for Minnesota is the longest in program history, and the second longest in Big Ten history to start a season. Plaschko has six individual shutouts on the season which is tied with Creighton’s Keelan Terrell to lead the nation. Minnesota joins Tennessee and Wake Forest as the only schools in the nation yet to allow a goal.
The road gets much tougher for Minnesota beginning this weekend. The Gophers will open up Big Ten play against rival Wisconsin at 6 PM Saturday night at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. It’s the Gophers annual Rock the Robbie game where tickets will be just $1.
Cross-Country keeps on running forward:
The Minnesota Gophers cross-country teams kicked off their season last weekend at the Spiked Shoe Invitational hosted by Penn State. It will be a preview for both teams as the Big Ten Championships will be held on the same course at the end of October.
The Gopher women are looking to build off of the best season in program history. They currently are ranked #10 in the nation and are coming off of a season where they finished in 5th place as a team at the NCAA Championships. Minnesota returns the core of that team this season. At the Spiked Shoe Invite the Gopher women’s team took home second place, while the men finished in fourth place. The women had three runners in the individual top ten as Bethany Hasz finished third, Abby Kohut-Jackson came in 7th and Anastasia Korzenowski finished in 10th place. The Gophers had a team score of 51, just three points off the winning score of 48 by Georgetown. Alec Basten finished in fifth place individually for the Gopher men.
Both teams will compete at the St. Olaf Invite in Northfield this weekend before hosting the Roy Griak meet the following weekend.
Gopher Golf hosting some of the nation’s best:
Both the Gopher men and women hosted their home tournaments this past weekend/week. The Gopher men hosted the Gopher Invitational at Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence and finished in 12th place. Minnesota closed on a poor note shooting +23 as a team in the final round to end the tournament at +30 through the three round event. Lincoln Johnson was the top individual finisher for the Gophers in 31st place.
The Gopher women are currently hosting the Annika Intercollegiate Tournament at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo. The 12 team tournament features some of the best teams in the nation....and the Gophers. Through the first two of three rounds the Gophers sit in last place with a score of +26, twelve shots behind 11th place LSU. South Carolina leads thr tournament at -10. Minnesota’s Joanne Free is in a tie for 20th place individually at +2 after shooting a -2 70 on Tuesday.
Both the Gopher baseball and softball teams kick off their fall exhibition schedules with home games this weekend. The Gopher baseball team hosts St. Thomas at Siebert Field Friday night at 6:30 and the softball team will play a doubleheader against Dakota Wesleyan at 1:30 and 3:30 on Saturday at Jane Sage Cowles Stadium. All of the games are free to watch.