Gophers Chomp Gators in Home Opener

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 The No. 4 Minnesota Golden Gophers defeated the No. 13 Florida Gators on Sunday afternoon in the team’s home opener at Maturi Pavilion, 25-22, 17-25, 25-22, 25-16.

“I’m super proud of the way the team competed tonight,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “It wasn’t super smooth and it was a bit clunky at times, but they were able to fight through that and figure it out. They really responded well when things didn’t go their way.”

The Golden Gophers (3-1, 0-0 Big Ten) were led by redshirt sophomore outside Taylor Landfair, who tallied 14 kills, four digs and three blocks. Melani Shaffmaster dished out 34 assists with 12 digs and four blocks while CC McGraw led the ‘U’ with a season-high 13 digs.

As a team, Minnesota hit .203 with 46 kills, six aces, 37 digs and 11 blocks. Florida hit .211 with 48 kills, five aces, 44 digs and 14 blocks.

The Gators (3-2, 0-0 SEC) were led by Marina Markova, who registered 14 kills.

UP NEXT: Minnesota hosts No. 18 Oregon in the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge on Friday night at Maturi Pavilion.

Set Breakdown:

Set 1: Minnesota jumped out quickly to a 7-2 lead, forcing the Gators to take an early timeout. Carter Booth and Julia Hanson had early kills in the spurt. The visitors would respond, however, scoring five straight points after the break to tie it up at seven. A service ace by Melani Shaffmaster and a kill from Jenna Wenaas helped the Gophers take a 14-12 lead, but a 3-0 run by UF gave them their first lead of the set at 15-14. The visitors capped their 5-2 run with two more kills to go up 17-15 and force Minnesota’s first timeout of the match. A kill from Booth and a block from Booth and Landfair tied the set up at 17 immediately after the break. The two teams exchanged points to 19 before two straight CC McGraw aces gave Minnesota the lead back at 21-19, causing the Gators to burn timeout No. 2. Coach McCutcheon called his second timeout after UF sliced Minnesota’s lead to one at 23-22. A service error by Florida and a kill from Ellie Husemann wrapped up set one for Minnesota, 25-22. The Gophers were outhit, .120 to .167, but their three aces and four blocks helped them take the set.

Set 2: Minnesota led 4-3 early on, but it was all Florida after that. The Gators went on a 12-1 run to take a 15-5 lead, forcing Minnesota to burn two timeouts in the middle of the set. UF’s Trinity Adams had three consecutive service aces to aid a 9-0 Gators run that took a 6-5 lead to 15-5. The Gophers would fight back, cutting the lead to six at 16-10 with a 4-0 run in the middle of the set. A kill from Landfair and a block from Husemann and Shaffmaster sparked the spurt and forced UF into calling a timeout. Minnesota would cut the lead to as few as four at 21-17 after Naya Gros earned her first two kills as a Gopher off the slide. Minnesota would get no closer, however, as UF ended the set on a 4-0 run to win, 25-17. The two teams headed into the break tied at one set apiece. Minnesota hit .065 in set two, compared to .321 for the Gators. Landfair led the ‘U’ with three kills in set two while Gros had two.

Set 3: After an uncharacteristic second set, Minnesota looked to come out energized in set three. After the two teams split the first six points, a 4-1 run gave the Gophers a 7-3 lead and forced a Gators timeout. A kill and a block from Gros and a service ace from Rachel Kilkelly got the run going. UF would answer after the break with a 5-0 run to take an 8-7 lead. Neither team led by more than two points throughout the middle of the set and they were eight ties between eight and 15. A 5-1 run paced by kills from Landfair and Wenaas and aces from Landfair and McGraw gave the Gophers a four-point lead at 20-16, forcing a Gators timeout. UF would cut the lead to two at 24-22, prompting a timeout from Minnesota. A kill from Landfair out of the break, her fifth of the set, ended set three with a 25-22 Gophers victory. Minnesota hit .242 with 13 kills, three blocks and three service aces to take set three and a 2-1 match lead.

Set 4: The Gators came out firing in set four, scoring five of the first six points to take an early four-point lead. Minnesota would answer right back, scoring five of the next six to tie up the set at 6-6. The two teams split the next eight points to keep the match tied up at 10-apiece. A 3-0 spurt gave the ‘U’ a 13-10 lead, led by kills from Gros and Wenaas. An ace from Rachel Kilkelly and a block from Naya Gros helped the Gophers take a 16-12 lead heading into the media timeout. Florida would get no closer as Minnesota ballooned its lead to eight at 22-14 to take control of the match. The ‘U’ closed out the match with a final 3-1 burst to win set four, 25-15.


-The Gophers moved to 6-2 all-time against Florida.

-In her first extended action of the season, graduate transfer Naya Gros provided a huge spark off the bench, tallying five kills and four blocks. She had played just one set in three games prior.

Naya Gros, Ellie Husemann and Melani Shaffmaster led Minnesota with four blocks. The Gophers had 11 as a team, their third time this season with nine or more.

Taylor Landfair tallied 14 kills to lead the team, her third time in four matches leading the team in kills. 

Melani Shaffmaster totaled 35 assists, 12 digs and four blocks. She became the 12th Gopher to pass 2,000 career assists with her fourth assist in the first set.

CC McGraw led the ‘U’ in digs with 13, which is a season-high for her.

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