The 11th-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (7-1) won its fourth match in a row, as it defeated No. 16 Cal Poly (5-3) on Saturday, Sept. 13 at the Sports Pavilion. With the win, the Golden Gophers are off to their best start since the 2005 season when they started the season 10-1.
Minnesota also moved to 3-1 against ranked opposition on the season. The three wins against ranked non-conference opponents are the most since the Golden Gophers won four matches out of conference against ranked opposition in 2004.
“I knew it was going to be difficult to play at the level we did last night,” said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. “We expended a lot of psychological energy during last night’s match. We knew we might not perform as well tonight, but I also knew we were going to have to find a way to win some tough points in tonight’s match against a very good Cal Poly team. We came out very strong, and I thought Cal Poly did a good job making some adjustments during the intermission. It took us a little while to adapt to what they were doing. However, I thought our players did a good job of winning some big points in tough spots in the four set.”
In the early match of the second day, No. 4 California defeated Notre Dame in five games by scores of 25-17, 21-25, 20-25, 25-23, 16-14. The Golden Bears moved to 1-1 in the tournament, while the Fighting Irish dropped to 0-2.
Minnesota was led by sophomore Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) who hit .345 (15-5-29) with 15 kills, seven blocks and five digs. Brook Dieter (Bloomington, Minn.) also had 15 kills on the night. Senior Kyla Roehrig (Papillion, Neb.) finished with 12 kills and three blocks (two solos) in the match.
Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) finished with 27 digs and had a career-high six assists on the night. Pam Luiz (Limeira, Brazil) had a career-high 17 digs, six kills and three blocks. Senior setter Rachel Hartmann (St. Charles, Ill.) had 49 assists, 11 digs and two blocks on the match for the Golden Gophers.
Hailey Cowles (Eden Prairie, Minn.) collected a career-high three service aces and had 14 digs, while Jessica Granquist (Blaine, Minn.) had nine digs. Senior Kelly Schmidt (Champaign, Ill.) also hit .353 (8-2-17) with eight kills for the match.
Minnesota outhit Cal Poly .203 to .087, and had 60 kills to 46 for the Mustangs. The Golden Gophers also outblocked Cal Poly 10.0-to-8.0. Minnesota has had more blocks than its opposition in all eight matches this year. The Golden Gophers also had a season-high 87 digs to 63 for the Mustangs.
In the first set, Minnesota raced out to a 5-0 lead and forced a Cal Poly timeout after a solo block by Gibbemeyer. The Mustangs scored two of the next three points to make it 6-2, but Gibbemeyer followed with back-to-back kills to make it 8-2. The Golden Gophers scored the next two points to push their lead to 10-2.
Cal Poly responded with four straight points to make it 10-6. The Mustangs cut it three points at 12-9, before Dieter delivered a kill to make it push it back to a four-point lead. Minnesota pushed it to 14-9, but Cal Poly responded with five of the next six points to cut the Golden Gopher lead to 15-14.
Minnesota scored the next two points on Mustang errors, and moved ahead 18-14 on a play in which saw Gibbemeyer come up with a tough dig and then deliver a kill. Cal Poly answered with consecutive points cut it to 18-16, but Gibbemeyer sandwiched a pair of kills around a combined on block with Dieter to make it 21-16.
The two teams exchanged points to make 23-18, and Schmidt delivered a kill to make it set point. Luiz and Schmidt combined on a block to give Minnesota the 25-18 victory in the first set.
Minnesota outhit Cal Poly .146 to .000, and had 13 kills to 10 for the Mustangs. The Golden Gophers also outblocked Cal Poly 3.0-to-1.0. Gibbemeyer led the way with five kills and two blocks in the set.
In the second set, the Mustangs jumped out to a 4-2 lead. However, Minnesota scored three of the next four points to tie it at five. The Golden Gophers ran off four of the next six points to move out to a 9-7 lead. Cal Poly answered with consecutive points to tie the score at nine.
Dieter put the Golden Gophers ahead with a kill, and Roehrig followed with a solo block after making a great defensive play earlier in the rally to keep the point alive. Roehrig followed with a kill, and Cal Poly committed an attack error to complete a 5-0 run that gave Minnesota a 14-9 lead.
Cal Poly followed with two of the next three points to make it 15-11. Minnesota answered by rattling off the next eight points to take a 23-11 lead. During that stretch Gibbemeyer three kills and two blocks to pace the Golden Gophers. With the score at 23-12, the Mustangs committed a serving error to make it set point. Cowles followed with a service ace to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Golden Gophers outhit the Mustangs .348 to -.079 in the second set, and had 10 kills to eight for Cal Poly. Minnesota also outblocked the Mustangs 4.0-to-2.0 in the set. Roehrig led the Golden Gophers in the second set with five kills and three blocks.
Cal Poly jumped out to a 7-4 lead in the third set, but Minnesota responded with a 5-0 run and went ahead 9-7 on a Schmidt kill. The Golden Gophers pushed the lead out to 12-9, but the Mustangs answered with four of the next five points to tie the set at 13. Hartmann and Dieter followed with consecutive kills to make it 15-13.
The Mustangs hung tough with three of the next four points to tie the set at 16. Dieter and Luiz put Minnesota ahead 18-16 with consecutive kills, but Cal Poly tied it back up at 18. Dieter put the Golden Gophers up again with a kill, and Roehrig followed with a kill on an overpass to make it 20-18. Schmidt expanded the lead to three points with a kill to end a long rally. However, the Mustangs answered with consecutive points to cut the Minnesota lead to 21-20 to force a Golden Gopher timeout.
Out of the timeout, Schmidt put Minnesota ahead 22-20 with a kill. The Mustangs answered with three straight points to take the lead at 23-22 forcing another Golden Gopher timeout. Roehrig tie the set at 23 with a kill, but Cal Poly scored to move it to set point at 24-23. Gibbemeyer answered with a kill to fight off the first set point, but the Mustangs scored to make it 25-24.
After a back row kill by Cowles, Cal Poly answered with a consecutive points to claim the set 27-25.
The Mustangs outhit the Golden Gophers .278 to .208 in the set, and had 21 kills to Minnesota’s 12. Cal Poly also outblocked the Golden Gophers 5.0-to-0.0 in the set. Dieter and Gibbemeyer had five and four kills respectively for Minnesota in the set.
Cal Poly ran out to a 12-6 lead in the fourth set, but Luiz answered with a kill and combined on a block with Gibbemeyer to make it 12-8. The Mustangs pushed the lead out to 15-9 with three of the next four points. Roehrig and Gibbemeyer answered with back-to-back kills to make it 15-11. After a Cal Poly attack error, Cowles delivered back-to-back service aces to cut it to 15-14.
The Mustangs responded with consecutive points to move ahead by three points 17-14. Dieter followed by sandwiching a pair of kills around a Cal Poly attack error to tie the set for the second time at 17. The Mustangs moved ahead, but Dieter answered with a kill to tie it at 18. She then followed with another kill in which she tipped the ball over an aggressive Mustang block to give Minnesota its first lead of the set at 19-18.
Cal Poly tied it at 19, but Schmidt put the Golden Gophers back ahead at 20-19. Minnesota move ahead by two points on a Mustang attack error. Cal Poly cut it to 21-20, but Schmidt had another kill to make it 22-20. The Mustangs continued to show their resiliency with back-to-back points to tie the set at 22 to force a Golden Gopher timeout. The teams exchanged the next two points, and Gibbemeyer delivered a kill to give Minnesota match point at 24-23.
Ali Walter delivered a kill for Cal Poly to fight off the first match point, but Hartmann and Gibbemeyer teamed up on a block to make it match point at 25-24. The Mustangs fought off the second match point on a Kylie Atherstone kill to tie it at 25. The Golden Gophers finally closed out the match on a pair of attack errors by Cal Poly to win in four sets.
Atherstone led the Mustangs with 13 kills and 18 digs on the night, while Walter had 10 kills and five digs. Setter Hailey Fithian had 40 assists and six digs, while Alison Mort had a team-high 19 digs for Cal Poly.
On Sunday, Sept. 14, Cal Poly will face California in the early match at 12 p.m. Minnesota will wrap up the tournament against Notre Dame at 2:30 p.m. That match will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.