seasMinnesota opened play in the Nike Invitational in Eugene, Ore., with a three-game sweep of Alabama by scores of 15-8, 15-5, 15-12. The Gophers have won consecutive matches for the first time this season and improve their record to 4-2, while Alabama falls to 1-3.
Nicole Branagh led three Gophers in double-figure kills with 16, and added nine digs. Yvonne Wichert hit 12 kills, while Lisa Aschenbrenner added 11 kills at a .588 hitting percentage. Lindsey Berg had 45 assists, three aces and eight digs for Minnesota.
The Gophers scored the first six points of the match, the initial four on Branagh's serve. Minnesota scored three of its first seven points on blocks of Alabama attempts. The Gophers built a 12-2 lead before Alabama rallied with six of the next seven points. Branagh and Wichert pounded kills to end the first game.
Minnesota raced out to a fast start in the second game, scoring 11 of the first 12 points. Branagh was the dominant player in the rally with four kills. The Crimson Tide closed to within 12-5, but the Gophers scored the next three points to take a 2-0 lead in the match. Branagh hammered home six kills in the game.
The third game was close throughout, as no team led by more than three points in the game. Two Branagh kills sandwiched a Wichert ace, and the three points gave Minnesota a 13-10 lead. Alabama tallied the next two points to move to within a point at 13-12, but an Alabama hitting error and a blocking error gave the Gophers the match.
Minnesota will continue play in the Nike Invitational against Cal State Fullerton tonight at 7 p.m. (CDT).