30-27The Minnesota volleyball team (3-1) rallied from a 2-0 deficit against No. 1 Nebraska (5 -0) to send the match to five games, but fell just short of claiming the victory as it lost by scores of 30-27, 30-25, 26-30, 25-30, 15-12. It marked the second straight meeting against the No. 1 ranked team in the nation in which the Golden Gophers lost in five games (last time happened against No. 1 USC in the NACWAA Classic on Aug. 28, 2004).
“I thought this match was played at a pretty high level today,” said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. “Both teams have a lot of weapons to go to, but defensively both teams did a lot of things that made it hard to put down clean kills. As a result, neither team really hit for a high percentage today. I thought we did a good job of making Nebraska uncomfortable on offense at times, but give them credit for making some big shots at the right times to pull the match out. Nebraska is a great team, and it is always a good barometer to play a team like them early in the season to see what you are doing well and what you have to work on.”
Minnesota found itself trailing 2-0, and was down to 25-20 in game three. However, the Golden Gophers fought back with an 8-0 run to take a 28-25 lead. Senior Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) got the run started with a kill, and then teamed on a block with junior Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) to cut the lead to 25-22. After a pair of Nebraska attack errors, senior Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara’, Brazil) delivered a service ace to tie the game at 25.
Freshman Kyla Roehrig (Papillion, Neb.) delivered a kill sandwiched in between a pair of Nebraska errors to give the Golden Gophers a 28-25 lead. The Cornhuskers finally stopped the run on a Melissa Elmer kill to make it 28-26. However, Nelson delivered a kill to give Minnesota game point at 29-26. Junior Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Nelson teamed up on a block to give the Golden Gophers game three 30-26.
Minnesota limited Nebraska to a .093 hitting percentage in the third game, and outblocked the Cornhuskers 6.0-to-2.0. Nelson paced the Golden Gophers with four blocks in the game.
In game four, Minnesota jumped out to a 14-10 lead against the Cornhuskers. Nebraska cut the lead to 17-14, before junior Malama Peniata (Plymouth, Minn.) delivered a kill to make it 18-14. Sophomore Jessy Jones (Naperville, Minn.) and Peniata followed with back- to-back kills to put the Golden Gophers ahead 20-14.
Nebraska answered with four straight points to cut the lead to 20-18, but Byrnes interrupted the run with a kill to make it 21-18. The Cornhuskers trimmed the lead down to one at 25-24, but Jones followed with a kill to make it 26-24. Jones and Byrnes then teamed up on a block to push the lead out to 27-24. Peniata followed with consecutive kills to give Minnesota game point at 29-24. After Nebraska scored to make it 29-25, Byrnes put down a kill to give the Golden Gophers the fourth game to tie the match at two games apiece.
The Golden Gophers outhit Nebraska .316 to .186 in the game, and had three blocks to just one for the Cornhuskers. Nelson and Peniata each had four kills in the game.
Minnesota fell behind 4-3 in game five, but Nebraska committed an attack error and Nelson followed with a kill to give the Golden Gophers a 5-4 lead. The Cornhuskers answered with five of the next six points to take a 9-6 lead. Minnesota capitalized on a pair of Nebraska errors to cut the lead to 9-8. The two teams exchanged points to make it 10-9, but the Cornhuskers answered with kills by Jordan Larson and Chris Houghtelling to move the lead out to 12-9. Peniata and Jones teamed up on a block to cut it to 12-10, but Larson followed with a kill to make it 13-10.
Roehrig answered with a kill for Minnesota to make it 13-11, but Elmer came right back with a kill of her own to give Nebraska match point at 14-11. The Golden Gophers cut it to 14-12 on a Cornhusker service error to make it 14-12, but Nebraska ended the match with a kill by Jennifer Saleaumua.
Nelson and Roehrig each led the way for Minnesota with 13 kills apiece. Nelson also had a season-high six blocks and four digs, while Roehrig finished with five blocks on the day. Peniata had a career-high 11 kills, along with nine digs. Byrnes also finished with 11 kills, and hit a match-high .391 (11-2-23) with three blocks.
Gentil had 23 digs and two service aces, while Bowman finished with 31 assists, 15 digs, four blocks and five kills. Freshman defensive specialist Kelly Fallon (Burlington, Wis.) also tied a match-high with three service aces and had nine digs. Jones also finished with eight kills and six blocks, while freshman Rachel Hartmann (St. Charles, Ill.) had 24 assists and six digs.
Minnesota limited the Cornhuskers to a season-low .193 hitting percentage, and pressured Nebraska into 41 hitting errors for the day. The Golden Gophers hit .179 for the match, and outblocked the Cornhuskers 14.0-to-10.0. Nebraska had 81 kills to Minnesota’s 62, and outdug the Golden Gophers 78 to 70.
Larson had 19 kills and 19 digs for the Cornhuskers, while Saleaumua had 12 kills and a match-high 27 digs. Sarah Pavan also had 17 kills for Nebraska, while Melissa Elmer had 10 kills. Chris Houghtelling had 13 kills and nine digs, but was limited to a .049 (13-11 -41) hitting percentage.
Minnesota will be back in action on Friday, Sept. 9 when it travels to Manhattan, Kan. to play Houston in the Kansas State Invitational at 5 p.m. The Golden Gophers will also play Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 10 a.m. and host Kansas State at 7 p.m.