(30-For the second consecutive night, the Minnesota volleyball team came close to pulling off an upset of a top-20 team. Saturday, it was No. 16 Penn State that escaped the Sports Pavilion with a 3-2 (30-20, 30-26, 27-30, 28-30, 18-16) victory to end the regular season. Minnesota ends the regular season with an 18-12 record, 10-10 and sixth in the Big Ten Conference standings.
?I?m proud of our effort, pretty soon these types of efforts will result in W's,? said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. ?We can point to our passing and hitting errors as why we didn?t win this match.?
The Gophers came from a two-game deficit to force a fifth and deciding game. Minnesota had two chances at match point to capture the win but came away empty handed. The Gophers? first match point at 14-12 was turned away by a Penn State kill by outside hitter Katie Schumacher. The Nittany Lions tied the score at 14-14 on a service ace by Jess Hayden. The Gophers? forced a second match point on a kill by Erin Martin to take a 15-14 lead. Schumacher's 29th kill of the match closed the door on that match point and tied the score at 15-15.
A Minnesota attack error by Trisha Bratford gave Penn State a 16-15 lead and its first match point opportunity but Bethany Brafford answered with a kill to notch the score one more time at 16-16. Penn State captured the final two points and the win on a Cara Smith kill and a Bratford attack error.
Penn State ran an efficient offense in taking the first two games by scores of 30-20 and 30-26. The Nittany Lions committed a combined eight attack errors in the first two games, hitting .375 in game one and .333 in game two. Schumacher already had a double-double after the second game with 16 kills, 10 of them in game two, and 14 digs.
Cassie Busse hit five kills in eight swings in the third game to pace the Gophers to a 30-27 win. Minnesota improved its hitting percentage to .289 in the game, while Penn State dropped to .133 with nine attack errors.
Stephanie Hagen stepped it up in the fourth game, hitting six of her team-high 21 kills to lead the Gophers to a 30-28 victory. The Nittany Lions closed to within 28-27 before kills by Bratford and Busse scored the game-winning points.
Minnesota hopes its 18-12 overall record is good enough to be one of 64 teams selected to the NCAA Volleyball Championships. The NCAA will announce the field on Monday, Nov. 26, at 2 p.m.