Roughly 24 hours after a shocking comeback victory over Wisconsin to keep title hopes alive, Penn State was unable to capitalize on the moment.
The Nittany Lions fell 3-1 to Minnesota, losing out on the chance to be named Big Ten co-champions along with the Badgers.
The match was a shootout from the start, with both sides exchanging blows from the start of the first set. A mid-set run from Penn State gave them a bit of cushioning as they were able to close out the first set with a win.
The second set started off similarly to the first, with neck and neck action from the first serve. However, a 4-0 run from the Gophers late in the set gave them the victory and brought the match back to even.
Penn State hit the ground running in the third set, taking an 8-3 lead early on in a set that looked like it was on track to be a blowout in favor of the blue and white. However, a mid-set comeback effort from the Gophers brought the match back to even, and it started to look like anyone’s set yet again.
Nonetheless, Minnesota was eventually able to pull away and send the match to a fourth (and potentially final) set.
A reversed call in favor of the Nittany Lions gave Penn State a bit of momentum to start the fourth set, but a Minnesota run left the Gophers with the lead early on.
A 7-2 scoring run by Penn State brought the match even at 19-19, but their comeback efforts were to no avail, as Minnesota came out of the nail-biter fourth set victorious, with a final score of 25-23.
The win marked the Gophers’ first win in Rec Hall in 15 years.
Commanding offensive performance from Gabby Blossom
Although Penn State wasn’t able to come away with a win, sophomore setter Gabby Blossom was a bright spot for the team, with seemingly every Penn State point going through her.
Blossom hit .667 and marked 50 assists in one of her better conference matches this season.
Leading the match in assists, Blossom was a staple player for the blue and white, and will likely be a big contributor in the team’s tournament efforts.
Kylie Miller back on the court for Minnesota
Minnesota’s senior setter Kylie Miller made her return from injury about a week before Saturday’s match, and her presence was certainly felt by the Nittany Lion defense.
Miller had been out since early October and was a key player for the Gophers early on in the season.
Against the Nittany Lions, Miller recorded 49 assists and 10 digs and ranked behind only Gabby Blossom in assists.
Wisconsin crowned Big Ten champion outright
Even though the blue and white defeated the Badgers on Friday, Saturday’s loss to Minnesota turned the Big Ten crown over to Wisconsin.
A win from the Nittany Lions over Minnesota would have introduced a dual champion situation, as Penn State and Wisconsin would have shared the conference title.
Penn State’s season is still far from over, and it would be reasonable to assume that the Nittany Lions are hungry to make a splash in the NCAA tournament.