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Gophers volleyball sweeps Purdue to complete home schedule, stay undefeated in Big Ten

November 11, 2018

With the Gophers still undefeated in the Big Ten, coach Hugh McCutcheon was asked last week if he is trying to quiet talk of finishing the conference season without a loss. “That’s other people’s stuff,’’ he said. “I don’t think they give you anything extra if you win 20 matches.’’

Maybe not. But with a league championship in their sights, the third-ranked Gophers continued on that path Saturday, running their Big Ten record to 16-0 with a sweep of No. 12 Purdue. The Gophers made quick work of the error-prone Boilermakers in a jam-packed Maturi Pavilion, winning 25-10, 25-23, 25-19.

The Gophers again used balanced scoring, with 10 kills from Stephanie Samedy, nine from Adanna Rollins and Alexis Hart, and eight from Regan Pittman. They outhit Purdue .344 to .167 and outblocked the Boilermakers 4-1.

The match was the last of the regular season at Maturi Pavilion, where the Gophers finished 14-0. They will conclude the conference schedule with four matches on the road, at Maryland and Ohio State next weekend and at No. 7 Penn State and Rutgers on Nov. 23-24.

“The goal is to try to win the conference,’’ McCutcheon said before the match. “That’s what we’re working on.

“We’re just going to try to play the best volleyball we can, day in and day out. If that leads to a conference title, then wonderful. It would be quite an achievement. It’s the toughest conference in the country. But we’re not getting too wrapped up in that.’’

Their fans, however, clearly are caught up in the potential of running the table. Several ticket scalpers roamed in front of Maturi Pavilion, and an overstuffed crowd announced at x,xxx kept the volume high throughout the match.

Just down the street from TCF Bank Stadium, where the Gophers crushed Purdue’s football team earlier in the day, the volleyball match quickly shaped up as a repeat. The Gophers were in nearly perfect rhythm throughout the first set, demolishing the Boilermakers with big runs at the beginning and the end.

Purdue hit -.027 in the set, with seven kills and eight hitting errors. It scored the first point before the Gophers took off on a 6-0 tear, then widened the margin to 13-5. The Gophers closed out the set with five consecutive points, including three earned via Purdue hitting errors.

The Boilermakers, who saw a seven-match win streak end Friday night at No. 8 Wisconsin, kept it closer in the second set but continued to struggle with accuracy. They committed four service errors in the set, and a 6-1 Gophers run turned a 13-13 tie into a 19-14 lead. With the Gophers leading 24-20, Purdue denied the Gophers set point three times before the Gophers sealed it.

The Gophers never trailed in the third set, though Purdue rallied from an 18-12 deficit to tie it at 18. But the Gophers ended on a 7-1 run, scoring the final five points of the match.

After the match, the Gophers held a ceremony to commemorate McCutcheon’s induction into the International Volleyball Hall of Fame. He did not attend the induction ceremony, which was staged Saturday in Holyoke, Mass., where the sport was created.

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