Gophers volleyball upsets No. 5 Michigan State in five set thriller


Adrianna Nora and Daly Santana paced the Minnesota Golden Gophers volleyball team to a five set victory over No. 5 Michigan State on Thursday. Santana, a native of Corozal, Puerto Rico, led the way with seven aces and 11 kills for Minnesota.

In the first set, the No. 10 ranked Gophers (17-3 overall, 5-2 Big Ten) came out swinging and led by as much as eight points, but an 11-1 run by Michigan State gave the Spartans all they needed to close out Minnesota 25-23 to take the early advantage. Santana began her memorable night with the three aces in the first set.

“Our athletes responded with a gutsy performance,” Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon said after the match. “I think there were a lot of phases that we could have been a little better in, but we battled and made some big plays down the stretch.”

Minnesota would tie the match up with a very nice second set, capped off by four more aces from Santana to go with four kills in the set. Their 25-21 set victory was just the start of what would be a wild night for the Gophers.

Bonus points in set No. 3 would keep Minnesota alive for a moment, but back-t0-back kills from Michigan State freshman outside hitter Chloe Reinig would give the Spartans the 26-24 set three victory and put the Gophers in a tough spot at the Sports Pavilion. The Spartans were a perfect 6-0 in Big Ten Conference play and 17-1 overall heading into the match.

Minnesota was sparked off the bench in the set by the junior middle blocker Nora — who hit .571 and added four kills. Nora would pace the Gophers with 12 kills on the night.

With their backs against the wall, the Maroon and Gold needed to win two straight games in order to take down the mighty Spartans. The defining moment of the match came on a tremendous volley with Minnesota clinging to a 22-21 set lead. Multiple players from each squad had to dive out of play to save the ball and finally Michigan State completed an attack error at the net off a team block from Tori Dixon and Sydney Howard. The point sent the crowd of 4,782 into a frenzy in front of a national television audience on ESPN2.

Nora and the Gophers would cruise to a 15-7 fifth set victory thanks to eight total team errors in the final stanza by the Spartans. From the right outside hitter position, Nora recorded five kills in the shortened final set, including the last of the match off the Michigan State block.

The Spartans committed 15 service errors on the night and 40 attack errors to hamper their chance at victory. Michigan State has not won at Minnesota since November of 2001.

Libero Kori Moster was impressive for the Spartans with 29 total digs to lead the match. Senior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski was the Spartans primary offensive threat with 22 kills.

Minnesota will look for their third straight win as they host No. 16 Michigan on Saturday. McCutcheon and the Gophers are in a prime spot to make a strong run in the remaining month and a half of the regular season.

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