The No. 9 University of Minnesota volleyball team fell in five sets to No. 3 Illinois, tonight at the Sports Pavilion. The Golden Gophers (7-3, 0-1 in the Big Ten) fell in the conference opener by scores of 25-20, 18-25, 22-25, 25-20 and 10-15. Illinois is still defeated and now sit at 12-0 and 1-0 in the Big Ten.
Brianna Haugen had her first career start and had a career-high seven kills and a career-high 14 attempts. Hailey Cowles held a double double when she had a season-best 16 kills and 10 digs. Ashley Wittman had 18 kills and 16 digs, while Tori Dixon had 13. Jessica Granquist and Steffi Sooter each had 20 digs, while Mia Tabbersonhad 54 assists.
The Golden Gophers maintain control throughout the first set as only one tie occurred at 1-1, but the Gophers rolled through the first set. Minnesota held a 5-2 lead and later a 10-6 before the Illini took a timeout. Minnesota did not even have an attack error until it was at set point, 24-18. Minnesota had its only two attack errors at 24-18 and again at 24-19. Jennifer Beltran had an ace and then a service error to close out the set. Minnesota held a team hitting percentage of .469, while holding Illinois at .237. Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman each had five kills in the set, while Hailey Cowleshad three.
After hitting .469 in the first set, Minnesota had a hitting percentage of -.073 as Illinois won the second, 25-18. Illinois hit .200 and capitalized 10 kills on 30 attempts and four errors. Minnesota had 14 hitting errors in the set. Illinois jumped out to an early 5-0 lead before Minnesota point a point on the board in the third. Minnesota, however, closed the gap when the score was at 15-13 advantage Illinois. The Illini, however, put it back to three points, 18-15 before Minnesota took its second timeout of the set. However, Illinois continued to put points on the board and won the third, 25-22. Minnesota hit .176 in the set, to Illinois' .182 Minnesota jumped out to a 4-0 lead as Cowles had two kills and Illinois had two attack errors before the Illini took a timeout. Minnesota would continue its lead until Illinois cut the Gopher lead to one at 20-19. After an attack error at 20-19, Wittman added a kill to give the Gophers a two-point lead at 21-19. Cowles added a kill, and Illinois had three attack errors and a kill as Minnesota won the set, 25-20.
However, the Illini jumped out to a 7-1 in the fifth before Minnesota took a timeout and continued to win through the fifth set. Minnesota battled back to put it at 13-10, but Illinois closed out the set and the match with kills from Erin Johnson and Michelle Bartsch to earn its first conference win.
In the last three sets, there were no tie scores or lead changes and only one lead change in the first set. In any of the sets, neither team hit above a hitting percentage of .300. Minnesota's fourth set was the closest when it hit .280 as a team. Illinois had a team total of 16 blocks to Minnesota's four.
Minnesota will look to return to the win column on Sunday afternoon as the Northwestern Wildcats come to town. The match is set to start at 1 p.m.
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