Gophers Rally for First Big Ten Conference Win
Sept. 25, 2011
After trailing in the first set, the No. 9 University of Minnesota volleyball team earned a 3-1 win over the Northwestern Wildcats, today, at the Sports Pavilion. With the win, the Golden Gophers (8-3 overall, 1-1 Big Ten) earned their first conference victory of the 2011 campaign. Northwestern dropped to 9-4 overall and 0-2 in conference action.
Minnesota was led by Ashley Wittman, who had 20 kills and 14 digs. Kellie McNeil saw her first action at the setter position and had 33 assists in 36 attempts. Ariana Filho had eight kills and a team-best .333 hitting percentage as well as one solo block and six block assists. Steffi Sooter had a match-high 23 digs and Katherine Harms had a season-best six block assists. Hailey Cowles also recorded a double double when she had 10 kills and 16 digs.
Northwestern dominated the first set when it went on an 11-0 run en route to a first set win, 25-12. The Wildcats trailed 5-6, but rolled to a 16-6 run. Minnesota got back on the scoreboard when Katherine Harms ended the Gopher drought 16-7. Minnesota attempted to battle back, but Northwestern's lead was too big for the Gophers to overcome.
The Gophers, however, stormed back in the second set to put the match at 1-1 after two. Minnesota and Northwestern were within two points throughout out the majority of the set and went through four lead changes and 11 tie scores, including as late as 23-23 in the second. As Minnesota trailed, 22-21, Northwestern's Stephanie Holthus had a service error, while Tori Dixon had a service as to put it at 22-22 before Northwestern took a timeout. Wildcats' Alex Ayers had a kill to put the set at 23-23, but Ashley Wittman closed out the set with back-to-back kills, including a tip in open court for set point.
Minnesota had seven blocks in the set to take the third, 25-22. The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 16-12 lead and later a 19-14 lead, forcing Northwestern to take its second timeout. Following the timeout, however, Harms and Filho added back-to-back blocks to put it at 21-14. Dixon and Harms later combined for a block to put it at set point. However, the Wildcats battled back and added four-straight points before forcing Minnesota to a take a timeout. After a Minnesota attack error, the Gophers received a kill from Cowles to win the set, 25-22.
The Gophers closed the door on Northwestern, winning the fourth set, 25-17. After a 4-4 tie, the Gophers went on an 8-0 run as Minnesota had five kills and one service ace in that span. After back-to-back attack errors by Ayers, Dixon held an ace, while Wittman had three kills. Filho and Cowles also contributed kills during that time before Northwestern's Yewande Akanbi finally held a kill to put the set at 12-5. After a kill by Harms to put it at 22-16 Minnesota, Northwestern had three attack errors, while Cowles finished out the set and match with a kill.
Minnesota is on the road next weekend to face Ohio State and Penn State. Friday's match against Ohio State at 6 p.m. CT in Columbus, Ohio and can be viewed through the Gopher All-Access package on gophersports.com. Saturday's match is at 5 p.m. CT and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.