After taking the first two sets from fourth-ranked Minnesota on Wednesday night, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team had the Big Ten leaders on the ropes.
But the No. 16 Buckeyes (22-9, 11-8) couldn’t deliver the knockout blow, dropping three consecutive sets to fall to Minnesota (25-4, 17-2) for the second times in as many matches this season (27-25, 31-29, 17-25, 15-25, 9-15).
The loss marked OSU’s second straight and its seventh over its last 11 matches.
Meanwhile, the win for the Golden Gophers guaranteed them at least a share of the Big Ten title.
Minnesota junior middle blocker Hannah Tapp put forth a dominant performance with 20 kills on a .500 hitting percentage and added seven blocks to lead all players with 24 points.
Also breaking the 20-point mark were junior outside hitter Sarah Wilhite (20 kills, three blocks, two aces) and senior outside hitter Daly Santana (17 kills, three aces, three blocks).
With hard-fought, extra-point wins in the first two sets, OSU looked poised to pull off the upset in Minneapolis, but unforced errors proved to be the difference down the stretch as it blew the two-game advantage.
The Buckeyes committed only one hitting error and attacked .348 in the first frame, though it took all they had to fight off the Golden Gophers. Faced with set point on three different occasions, OSU was able to force extra points and flipped a 25-24 deficit into a 27-25 win.
The Scarlet and Gray didn’t find as much success on offense in the second set, but held Minnesota in check (.068 attack percentage) behind five blocks. The teams battled even further into extra points than they did in the first set, but the OSU was again able to find its way to a win.
An upset looked even more certain for the Buckeyes when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set, but things unraveled from there as they would lead only once more — for a brief time in the fifth set — in the remainder of the match.
OSU was significantly out-hit, .375-.140, over the final three frames as it committed 19 attack errors (versus only six for Minnesota) and had nine shots blocked.
Three Buckeyes notched double-doubles in the loss: senior outside hitters Elizabeth Campbell (18 kills, 15 digs) and Katie Mitchell (11 kills, career-high 14 digs), along with freshman setter Taylor Hughes (career-high 54 assists, 15 digs).
Reigning Big Ten freshman of the week and outside hitter Audra Appold led OSU with 19 points by way of 18 kills and one solo block.
As it tries to get some degree of momentum heading into the NCAA tournament, OSU is scheduled to wrap up the regular season on Saturday in St. John Arena on senior night against Rutgers. In the teams’ previous matchup in Piscataway, New Jersey, the Buckeyes handled the Scarlet Knights rather easily in three sets. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.