The Gophers volleyball team picked up their ninth-straight win on homecoming weekend, taking down Rutgers. They remain undefeated in Big Ten play this season.
The Gophers won in four sets: 25-17, 25-20, 19-25 and 25-12. It was their second-straight match missing two starters: setter Kylie Miller and libero CC McGraw. According to head coach Hugh McCutcheon, both are still considered day-to-day.
Even without Miller and McGraw, Minnesota controlled the first set. The Gophers opened the set 3-0 following back-to-back kills from middle blocker Taylor Morgan and another kill from opposite hitter Adanna Rollins. Morgan had another pair of kills late in the set, the first giving the Gophers a 20-15 lead and the second giving Minnesota a 22-15 lead. Rollins added another kill, putting Minnesota ahead 24-16. A Rutgers attack error gave the Gophers the set. The Gophers continued to play their game, even missing key contributors.
"I mean we're all very good players and all very well rounded, so it felt comfortable from the beginning," middle blocker Regan Pittman said of the team's rotation changes. "Just have to work on our communication."
It was back and forth in the second. Rutgers was able to take an 12-10 lead early, but Morgan answered with a kill for Minnesota, cutting Rutgers' lead to one. Filling in for McGraw in the libero spot, Rachel Kilkelly followed Morgan's kill with an ace, tying the set at 12. Pittman had a kill late in the set to give the Gophers a 24-20 lead, and another attack error by Rutgers gave Minnesota the set and a 2-0 lead.
Rutgers controlled the pace in the third, pulling out to an early lead. The Gophers tied it at 10, but Rutgers started to pull away. A kill by opposite hitter Stephanie Samedy pulled the Gophers within two, but Rutgers didn't waiver. They took the set and avoided the Minnesota sweep.
"They did a nice job. Especially their middles hit for a good number, that was it," McCutcheon said. "We were trying to get on them a little bit, we stayed on a read. They were getting on it pretty quick and taking advantage of that. I think it's just another chance to learn and move on, they had a good strategy and they did well."
The intensity for Minnesota picked up in the fourth. The team huddled before the set, and Morgan had a message for the team.
"Just play Gopher volleyball," Pittman said.
The Gophers did just that in the fourth. They dominated the set, winning by double digits. Rollins had six kills in the set, followed by Morgan and Samedy who had four each.
"We were grinding for a while there, and a lot of that had to do with Rutgers nice play. They had a good performance tonight," McCutcheon said. "I liked the way we responded in the fourth set. That seemed to be appropriate. The execution was a little bit cleaner there. Happy to get the win and obviously we move on."
The Gophers will play again on Wednesday against No. 18 Illinois.