As expected the No. 8 Gophers volleyball team kept Rutgers winless in the Big Ten Conference, sweeping the Scarlet Knights 25-18, 25-8, 25-16 on Friday night at the Maturi Sports Pavilion before 5,366 fans.

The caliber of the competition will go up a bit Saturday night, though, when Minnesota closes out its regular season vs. No. 1 Penn State at 7:30 p.m. at the same sold-out venue.

Stephanie Samedy and Alexis Hart led the Gophers (26-4, 15-4 Big Ten) with 14 kills apiece against Rutgers. Minnesota hit .500 to .181 for Rutgers (5-26, 0-19).

Saturday night, the Nittany Lions (28-1, 18-1) will arrive riding an 18-match winning streak and leading the Big Ten and the NCAA in hitting percentage. The match will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

Penn State’s Haleigh Washington entered Friday’s match against No. 11 Wisconsin — which the Nittany Lions won 3-1 — hitting .517, best in the country. She also ranks second in the conference and leads her team in blocks, averaging 1.50 per set. Simone Lee leads her team in kills and is fourth in the Big Ten, averaging 3.91 kills per set.

The drama will spill over from Saturday night’s heavyweight fight into Sunday, aka Selection Sunday. The Gophers and 63 other NCAA tournament teams will find out at 7 p.m. on ESPNU where they are headed in their quests to get to Kansas City, Mo., for the Final Four in mid-December.

The Gophers, with a top-10 RPI ranking, almost certainly will be chosen to host first- and second-round tournament matches the following weekend.

Staff reports