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Gophers volleyball falls to Penn State in four sets; NCAA tournament up next

November 26, 2017 GMT

Well, the good news for the Gophers volleyball team is that after Saturday night, its a fresh start.

While the four seniors on the roster celebrated senior night in a bittersweet way, it isnt the end of the line for this Gophers team, with the NCAA tournament around the corner.

The No. 8 Gophers dropped in four sets 27-29, 20-25, 26-24, 20-25 to No. 1 Penn State at the Maturi Pavilion in front of an announced sell-out crowd of 5,343 to close out their regular season. The team finished 26-5 overall and 15-4 in the Big Ten conference, while the Nittany Lions improved to 29-1 and 19-1 with just a single loss to Nebraska back in September to blemish their record.

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The Gophers find out 8 p.m. Sunday their place in the seedings in the NCAA tournament via a live broadcast on ESPNU. The 64-team field will be announced, with the top-four seeds having a chance to host the NCAA regionals. For the past two seasons, the Gophers have made the Final Four. This years championship is in Kansas City.

It was a heck of a match tonight, Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon said in a postgame speech honoring the seniors. But Im confident our best is yet to come.

Despite jumping out to an early 10-5 lead in the first set, the Gophers couldnt close out Penn State. The tight set spawned 12 tie scores and 10 lead changes, going into extra points to decide.

The Nittany Lions dominated the second set, improving their hitting percentage from .113 to .378.. Meanwhile, the Gophers hit .250, compared to .098 from the first set.

The halftime break did wonders for the Gophers, though, as they hit .325 to Penn States .289 and maintained a five-point gap for much of the third set. Penn State did manage to overcome that with a late 6-1 run in the to level the score at 24-24. But kills from freshman opposite Stephanie Samedy and sophomore outside hitter Brittany McLean gave the Gophers some hope for a comeback.

Heading into this weekend, Penn State ranked second in the Big Ten in blocks per set with 2.96 and in opponent hitting percentage, holding the opposing team to .165. Saturday, the Nittany Lions held the Gophers to an overall hitting percentage of .221 Penn State hit .273 and tallied 18 total team blocks to the Gophers eight.

Penn State senior middle blocker Haleigh Washington also entered the weekend hitting .517, which was best in the NCAA. She hit .514 on Saturday and recorded 21 kills. Teammate senior outside hitter Simone Lee scored 20 kills, including a massive 10 in the fourth and final set.

Samedy led the game with 22 kills, though. Sophomore outside hitter Alexis Hart managed 19 while redshirt freshman middle blocker Regan Pittman contributed 10.

Junior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson made a game-high 53 assists for the Gophers while Penn State senior outside hitter Ali Frantti led with 10 digs.

The Gophers now trail Penn State 47-10 all time.