A season of overcoming adversity came to a close for the Gophers' volleyball team on Thursday, falling to a familiar foe in No. 3 Stanford in the Final Four: 25-19, 25-22 and 25-22.
In the first, the Gophers found themselves trailing early in a defensive battle, but fought back to take the lead at 8-7. Stanford answered with a series of runs, led by way of outside hitter Kathryn Plummer. Stanford went on a 6-1 run, giving them enough breathing room to control the remainder of the set. Plummer had eight first set kills, adding five blocks and a trio of digs.
Minnesota, a top-10 blocking team in the country, found themselves losing the battle in the first, getting out-blocked 8-2 in the set.
Outside hitter Alexis Hart looked to change the Gophers fortunes in the second. She recorded three kills as Minnesota opened the set 8-3. Yet, Stanford quickly returned to their first set form, taking a 13-12 lead that Minnesota then tied by a kill off the hand of Hart. The Gophers tied the set again at 17 after back-to-back kills from outside hitter Airi Miyabe and an ace from defensive specialist Rachel Kilkelly, but Stanford's attack led by Plummer proved to be too much for Minnesota. Behind 2-0, the Gophers season was on the line once again.
The Gophers avoided elimination in two five-set matches on the way to clinching a Final Four berth but they weren't able to do the same on Thursday. Stanford opened the third 14-7 hoping to close the match quickly, but Minnesota answered with a 5-0 run, putting themselves in position to force a fourth set. They remained within two as middle blocker Regan Pittman sent a rocket towards Stanford off an overpass, but it wasn't enough to overcome the deficit and the Stanford offense. Fittingly, Plummer closed the match with her 26th kill of the match.
Stanford's offensive prowess was demonstrated once again in the Final Four. As a team, they hit .325 for the match, a far higher clip than the .164 hit percentage posted by Minnesota.
The loss means the Gophers will have to wait another season for their first national championship in program history.