The Minnesota Gophers hosted the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge this past weekend at The Pav, but could not use the home court to their complete advantage. Minnesota earned a tough 3-1 over the #18 ranked Oregon Ducks on Friday night, but didn’t have enough energy left in the tank and played poorly on Saturday losing to #11 Stanford 3-1.
Friday it was all the Taylor Landfair show for the Gophers. She earned a career high 28 kills and added nine digs and five blocks.
Oregon jumped out to an early lead in the opening set before the Gophers went on a n 9-1 run to regain control. Oregon would get back within one point at 17-16 but the Gophers would not be denied and closed out a 25-20 win with a big bock by Carter Booth and Nya Gros and then a kill by Booth.
In set two the teams traded points until Oregon went on a run to take a 15-10 lead. Minnesota clawed back to take a lead, but Oregon again pushed ahead 21-19. After a Gopher timeout they attacked and would go on a 6-1 run anchored by a trio of Jenna Wenaas kills to earn a 25-22 win and take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Set three was similar to set two, but lacked the Gopher comeback. oregon pushed ahead in the middle of the set and the Gophers had no answer this time as the Ducks made it a match with a 25-18 win.
Minnesota would close out the match with a gutsy set four. Oregon once again jumped out to an early lead, and the Gophers clawed back. Oregon went up 10-3, but a 6-2 run with a pair of kills and a huge block from Landfair led the Gophers closer. Minnesota went on a 5-0 run after the Ducks retook a five point lead and the set was knotted at 15-all. Minnesota had their first match point at 24-23, but Oregon extended it with a huge kill. After trading points Minnesota finally closed it out with Wenaas earning the final two kills to earnt he 27-25 win and the 3-1 match victory.
Unfortunately for the Gophers that late rally and push seemed to take a lot of out them and they really could never get into a rhythm against Stanford on Saturday. Lanfair would add 15 more kills after her career high 28, and Wenaas eight, but each player has seven errors each which put a damper on the Gophers attack. Stanford had 20 blocks to Minnesota’s 8.
Minnesota once again struggled early in sets falling behind, but unlike Friday not able to dig themselves out of their holes. Stanford held the momentum and never gave the Gophers a chance to overcome their mistakes. Minnesota now falls to 3-11 all-time against the Cardinal. Penn State won the challenge by going 2-0 on the weekend and defeating both Pac-12 schools.
With the loss Minnesota dropped three spots in the national rankings to #6 this week. They will host the Diet Coke Classic at the Pav this weekend to round out their non-conference schedule. Minnesota will face their fifth consecutive ranked opponent Thursday night when they host #22 Pepperdine. Saturday night Minnesota will host Washington State and former Gopher middle blocker Shea Rubright. Thursday’s match will start at 7:00 and Saturday’s will start at 7:30 PM. Both will stream on BTN+.