The Gophers played nearly flawless volleyball on Saturday night at a sold-out Maturi Pavilion, defeating Ohio State 25-14, 25-9, 25-17 to continue a late-season push for an NCAA tournament bid.
In every facet, the Gophers excelled. They hit .310 compared to .039 for the Buckeyes, tallied 48 digs with stellar receiving and passing and applied relentless service pressure. Taylor Landfair provided one of the most memorable defensive plays of the season with a leaping dig, stretching the vertical limits of her 6-5 frame, which turned into a Mckenna Wucherer kill and ignited the home crowd.
The offense was deep and diversified with nine kills for Landfair and eight each for Wucherer and Lydia Grote. Middle blocker Phoebe Awoleye was everywhere with three kills and a career-high 11 blocks. Melani Shaffmaster posted another double-double with 22 assists and 14 digs.
It was one of the best examples of team volleyball the U has played this season.
What did it feel like on the court?
"Oh, you did that? Let me show you what I can do, too," Awoleye said. "It's such a healthy competition, just energy and feel. We're going to get excited for each other, we're going to celebrate each other and it's very easy, very smooth. We were just having fun. That's what we've been working on, not taking everything so seriously."
It sets up an exciting final weekend to the regular season at the Pavilion. Minnesota (15-11 overall, 11-7 Big Ten) will face Illinois (16-12, 11-7) on Friday in a battle of teams tied for fifth place in the conference, then finish the regular season with undefeated and No. 1 Nebraska (26-0, 17-0). It will give the Gophers a chance to show how they've grown after putting together a 9-3 record in their last 12 matches.
"A lot of what we saw tonight, especially, we want to hang onto," Gophers coach Keegan Cook said. "We get one more week to recreate it in the Pav, and then if we get a chance, we'll take it on the road with us.
"But make sure they own it, just like they've taken responsibility for some of our disappointing moments [this season]. They need to own what they did tonight and know they can recreate it anywhere."