The Gophers volleyball team picked up their fourth-straight win Thursday when they took down Clemson in the Diet Coke Classic.
The Gophers won in straight sets: 25-22, 25-22 and 26-24. They got off to a quick start, opening the first set on an 11-3 run. Clemson battled back, going on a 5-0 run late in the first to cut the Gophers' lead to one, 21-20. Middle blocker Regan Pittman answered for the Gophers with back-to-back kills, giving Minnesota a 23-20 lead. Setter Kylie Miller added one more before Pittman closed out the set with a kill, giving Minnesota a 1-0 lead.
"I thought we started strong, I think the Pav takes a little bit of acclimating to. Clemson did a nice job and served their way back into it," head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "Happy to win that first set, and obviously happy with the win. But they played well, and I was certainly impressed by the fact that even though it was difficult for us at times out there, we were able to find ways to close out the sets."
Clemson kept it close once again in the second, but the Gophers were able to run away with the set late thanks in part to a pair of blocks by Taylor Morgan and Stephanie Samedy. Morgan and Samedy combined for 12 blocks in the match. Pittman also contributed around the net. She added five blocks, two of which were solo. Pittman was recently name the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after her performances against Oregon and Stanford.
"Those awards, they don't really mean much," Pittman said. "At the end of the year, it's who's a national champion and who's not."
The Gophers opened the third set 7-4 before Clemson went on a run of their own, taking a 10-9 lead. Pittman once again answered for Minnesota. She had back-to-back kills late in the set to give the Gophers 19-15 and 20-15 leads. Pittman answered for Minnesota after every Clemson run.
"Every point is a point, no matter when they are," Pittman said. "They're a point during the match. It's really good to be consistent — I think that's something we need to work on, just being consistent. Making sure that big points aren't big points."
A kill by outside hitter Claire Sheehan put the Gophers up 23-17 in the third. Clemson answered with a 6-0 run to tie the set at 23. In the end, it wasn't enough as Minnesota recovered and took the third set 26-24.
"All the wins matter at this point for lots of reasons, but hopefully we can play another good match on Saturday and we'll worry about the rest after that," McCutcheon said.
The Gophers will finish their non-conference schedule on Saturday, Sept. 21 when they take on Oral Roberts at 7 p.m.