seThe ninth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (30-5, 17-3) lost to No. 17 Penn State (23-7, 13-6) in three games by scores of 28-30, 25-30 and 20-30 on Friday, Nov. 29 at Rec Hall in its final regular season match of the year. The loss is the Golden Gophers first away from the Sports Pavilion on the season, dropping them to 16-1 away from home on the season. It was also Minnesota’s first road loss in Big Ten play as the Golden Gophers fell to 9-1 in conference road play on the season.
Minnesota owns the Big Ten’s automatic bid after winning its first Big Ten title in school history last weekend. The Golden Gophers will wait to find out the pairings for the NCAA Tournament when the selections are announced on Sunday, Dec. 1 on ESPNNews at 8 p.m. (CT).
Penn State jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the match by winning game one 30-28. The Nittany Lions fought their way to a 21-18 lead. However, Minnesota responded with a 5-0 run, four of the points coming on blocks, to go up 23-21. Penn State rallied to tie the match at 27. The Nittany Lions then proceeded to score three of the next four points to claim the game. Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) had five kills in six attempts for Minnesota in the game, while Cara Smith led the way with seven kills for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions took game two 30-25 to go up 2-0 in the match. With a 10-8 lead, Penn State scored eight of the next 12 points to go up 18-12. From that point the Nittany Lions led by no less than four points the rest of the game. Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) led the way for the Golden Gophers with seven kills in the game. Penn State outblocked Minnesota 5.0 to 1.0 in game two.
Penn State won game three 30-20 to take the match 3-0. The Nittany Lions ran out to a 20-9 run and never looked back. Penn State outhit Minnesota .279 to .133 in the game.
The Golden Gophers were led by Busse who had 12 kills, six digs and four blocks. Trisha Bratford (Reseda, Calif.) had 11 kills and tied a season-high with nine digs, while Martin had 10 kills. Lindsey Vander Well (Prinsburg, Minn.) had 39 assists on the night, while Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara’, Brazil) had a match-high 19 digs. Lisa Axel (Buffalo, Minn.) had 10 digs in her final regular season Big Ten match.
Penn State outhit Minnesota .244 to .205 on the night. The Nittany Lions also outdug the Golden Gophers 62 to 54.
Cara Smith led the way for Penn State with 16 kills and a .519 hitting percentage.
This season, Minnesota matched its best Big Ten record in school history going 17-3 in conference play. The Golden Gophers tied their overall wins record for a season in the NCAA era with 30, and can still break that record in NCAA Tournament play.
Minnesota will find out the pairings in the NCAA Tournament on the Selection Show, which will be broadcast on ESPNNews at 8 p.m. on Sunday Dec. 1. The Golden Gophers will host a gathering in the Club Room at the Sports Pavilion on Sunday, Dec. 1 beginning at 7:30 p.m.