The Gopher women ran the Dinkytown sports world this past weekend as the Minnesota Gophers women’s hockey team, volleyball team and soccer team combined to go a perfect 5-0 on the weekend. The hockey team earned a sweep over Bemidji State in their first two games of the season, the volleyball team bounced back from an up and down start to head into Michigan and sweep the Wolverines and Spartans by a combined 6-0, and the soccer team knocked off rival Iowa 1-0 on Senior Day.
The Gophers opened their season directly into WCHA play and a series at home against an in-state team in Bemidji State. The Gophers raised their 2021-22 WCHA Regular Season Championship banner prior to faceoff on Friday night, and then came out like a team that wants to hang another one next fall.
The Gophers got a pair of goals from a trio of players en route to a 6-0 shutout win. Abigail Boreen got things started in the first period with assists to Taylor Heise and Madeline Wethington. The highest scoring line in college hockey a season ago jumped back right where they left off. The opening goal of the second period was a carbon copy, Boreen from Heise and Wethington once again 1:01 into the period to make it 2-0.
Next came the Peyton Hemp show. The defending WCHA and NCAA Rookie of the year also picked up where she left off scoring a pair of goals just over four minutes apart to make it 4-0 Gophers. Next up, returning Olympian Abbey Murphy. She would score her first goal just 2:30 after Hemp to make it 5-0 after two periods. Murphy added the lone goal of the third period as well to complete the scoring and finish off the Gophers 6-0 win. Madeline Wethington led the way with a trio of assists and Nelli Laitinen picked up a pair in her first game in the maroon and gold. Makayla Pahl recorded the shutout making 17 saves.
The two teams returned to the Ridder Arena ice Saturday afternoon, and in this game Bemidji put up much more of a fight. Minnesota once again jumped out to a quick lead on a goal by Minnesota-Duluth transfer Lizi Norton less than two minutes into the game. That’s how the first period would end, and when Bemidji’s Kate Boland struck 1:34 into the second period, the game would be knotted and 1, and that’s how the second period would end.
The Gophers finally wrested control in the third period and made the game a more comfortable margin. Grace Zumwinkle got her first goal returning after Olympic duty to give Minnesota a 2-1 lead just over three minutes into the third period. Just under 1:30 later it would be that #1 scoring line, this time Catie Skaja finding the back of the net with assists to Boreen and Heise. Finally Emily Oden found the back of the empty net with 1:07 left in the game to completely put the game on ice and allow the Gophers to finish off the 4-1 win and the series sweep. Skyler Vetter made 15 saves to earn her first win of the season.
The Gophers get a slightly tougher in-state task this weekend when they will face Minnesota State in an home and home series. The Mavericks hosted defending NCAA Champion Ohio State to open the season and nearly pulled off a huge upset losing both games by one goal. Then last weekend they headed to Duluth to play UMD and once again put a scare into their opponent losing in overtime Friday and in a 2-0 contest Saturday. Minnesota heads to Mankato for a 3PM Friday matinee before the teams return up Highway 169 for the game at Ridder at 2Pm on Saturday. Both games will stream on BTN+.
The Gopher volleyball team was looking to get back on a roll after what had been an early up and down start to the Big Ten season. After losses to Purdue and Northwestern and wins over Wisconsin and Iowa, Minnesota wanted to put together a good weekend in the Mitten State to show that they had things back on track. I’d say that worked as the Gophers swept #24 Michigan 3-0 on Friday before sweeping Michigan State 3-0 on Sunday.
In the match against the Wolverines, the Gophers never let Michigan into the game. There was now early good start and then a relapse. Minnesota keep the pedal to the floor the entire match. After a back and forth start that saw the Gophers lead 6-5, Minnesota found their connection and went on a 9-0 run to take a 15-5 lead. Michigan tried to claw back, but it never got closer than 12 points as the Gophers shut the door with a dominant 25-12 set one win.
Set two was more typical of what we have seen so far from Minnesota. Both teams went back and forth early before the Gophers took first a 17-14 lead and then a set high 21-16 lead. The Wolverines stormed back cutting the Gopher lead to two twice, but Minnesota finished the set off with a Taylor Landfair kill and a 25-22 win.
Set three was just let the first. Minnesota had a 6-5 lead before going on another long run and extending the lead to 15-7. Michigan tried to come back once more cutting the lead to 19-13, but Minnesota closed out the match with six straight points and their most dominant win of the season. Taylor Landfair would lead the Gophers with 17 kills. Freshman Carter Booth led the Gophers with six blocks.
Minnesota headed over to East Lansing for Sunday’s lilt against the Spartans and saw more of the same. The Gophers used several small runs to take leads over the Spartans, but MSU came back in set 1 cutting the Gopher lead to two at 20-18. It would be Landfair and Jenna Wenaas closing the set out with five and four kills respectively in the opening set.
Set two was more of a blowout. The Gophers jumped out to a 5-1 lead and then extended that to 11-5. Michigan State would close to as close as five points, but the Gophers would not be stopped as they would roll 25-15 and close out the set on a block by Spartan transfer Naya Gros.
Set three was much of the same jumping out to an 8-1 lead and never giving MSU a chance to think they were in the match. The Spartans would get no closer than nine points the rest of the way as Minnesota closed out the sweep 25-14. Lanfair once again led the way with 12 kills, and Wenaas had 11. Gros finished her first match back in East Lansing with a team leading five blocks and seven kills.
Landfair would take home the weekly honors from the Big Ten being named the Big Ten Player of the Week. In her two matches in Michigan Landfair averaged a team-best 5.00 kills per set and added 5.75 points, 1.17 digs and 0.67 blocks per set.
The Gophers schedule once again does not let up as Minnesota hosts a huge Top-10 battle at the Pav on Wednesday night as the #10 Gophers face #6 Ohio State. The Buckeyes come in at 5-1 in the Big Ten with a lone loss to #3 Nebraska in Lincoln. The Buckeyes has setter Mac Podraza, one of the best players in the nation. The match will start at 7 PM and will air live on Big Ten network.
Saturday Minnesota hosts another strong team in Illinois. The Illini are 3-3 in conference play this season but all three losses have come to ranked teams in Wisconsin, Purdue and Penn State. That match will air at 3PM on Big Ten Network, directly after the Gophers/Illini football game.
The Gophers soccer team closed out Senior Day on a high note by defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 1-0 at Elizabeth Lyle Robbie Stadium. Grad transfer Gabbie Cesarone scored the lone goal of the match off of a corner kick in the 23rd minute from fellow grad student McKenna Buisman. A record crown of 1,909 was on hand for the match.
Cesarone would earn Big Ten weekly honors along with Gopher goalkeeper Megan Plaschko. Cesarone was named the Big Ten Defender of the Week after scoring her fourth goal of the season and third game winning goal for the Gophers. Plaschko earned her third Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week honors of her career and first this season after a six save shutout of the Hawkeyes. She now has five clean sheets on the season.
The Gophers have four regular season games left in the season, and face a tough east coast road trip this week. Minnesota heads to #10 Rutgers for a 6PM match on Thursday night and then heads down to Maryland for a Noon Sunday tilt. Both matches will stream live on BTN+.