Sep. 17—In the first Division I matchup between the Gophers and the Tommies, Minnesota overpowered St. Thomas, sweeping them 25-14, 25-8, 25-7 in the opening game of the Diet Coke Classic on Thursday night at Maturi Pavilion.
"I was really impressed with the performance," Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. "One, we were able to play some different lineups, and that was important for us to do. Two, I thought we were able to hold ourselves to a really high standard of play and control things on our side at a really high level. To me, that's a sign of a team heading in a good direction."
The 11th-ranked Gophers (4-3) played without stars Stephanie Samedy and Taylor Landfair, who were held out to rest, but still were dominant from start to finish as they never trailed at any point.
"Steph's carried a pretty big load for us in the first three weeks of preseason," McCutcheon said. "It felt appropriate because we need to develop other players in other positions but also to give her a little bit of a breather. It felt (like) the right thing to do tonight. I think if we needed her she would have been ready to go."
Freshmen Natalie Glenn and Anna Wolf made their first career starts and combined for 10 kills. Shea Rubright also made her first start of the season, notching a season-high five kills and team-high five blocks.
St. Thomas (1-8) is in its first season as a Division I program after moving up from Division III. McCutcheon mentioned the importance of this match in building an in-state rivalry.
"It was great to be able to play St. Thomas tonight in the first intrastate Division I match in state history," McCutcheon said. "It's exciting to have multiple Division I volleyball teams in Minnesota, and while it may take some time for them to build their program up at this level, I look forward to future matches against them."
The Gophers opened the match with a quick 4-0 run with kills from Airi Miyabe and Rubright and a block assist from Jenna Wenaas and Rubright.
In the middle of set one with the Gophers leading 10-2, St. Thomas went on its best run of the night, scoring six of the next eight points to cut the Gophers lead to 12-8.
However, that was the closest they got to Minnesota as the Gophers scored eight of the next 12 points to lead 20-12.
The Gophers had an 8-0 run in the second set and runs of 10-0 and 6-0 in the third set.
Wenaas led the Gophers in kills (14) and service aces (4) and was second on the team in blocks (4). Melani Shaffmaster had a team-leading 27 assists and a .750 hitting percentage. CC McGraw had 12 of Minnesota's 35 digs.
Freshman Lauren Galvin of Woodbury and senior Fran Egan of Minneapolis were bright spots for St. Thomas. They combined for 13 of the Tommies' 15 kills, and Galvin, an East Ridge graduate, led the team in digs with 5.
The Tommies and Gophers both will play Iowa State to close out the event. The Tommies play the Cyclones at 5 p.m. Friday at Maturi, and the Gophers play them at 7 p.m. Saturday.