toThe Minnesota volleyball team captured the championship of the Nike Invitational late Saturday night in Eugene, Ore., defeating Oregon in three games, 15-10, 15-4, 15-6. The Gophers went 3-0 in the tournament to increase their winning streak to four matches and improve to 6-2, while Oregon loses its first match in seven outings this season.
Nicole Branagh pounded 19 kills and hit .516 to lead the Gopher offense. Lindsey Berg and Lisa Aschenbrenner joined Branagh on the all-tournament team. Minnesota hit .381 as a team in the match, compared to Oregon's .069 hitting percentage. The Gophers outblocked the Ducks 12.5-2, led by Charnette Fair's six blocks.
Minnesota scored the first seven points of the match in the first four rotations. The Gopher offense was very efficient, banging home six kills without an error. The Ducks rallied from a 10-3 deficit, scoring seven of the next eight points to cut the Minnesota advantage to 11-10. Lisa Axel served an ace to stop the Duck run, and then served the final three points to close out the first game. Branagh had nine kills and hitt .500 in the opening stanza.
After allowing the first point, the Gophers rolled off five consecutive points to take a 5-1 lead in game two. Wichert had three consecutive kills to start the Minnesota rally. Oregon cut the Gopher lead to 6-4, but Minnesota scored eight consecutive points on Axel's serve and finished the game by tallying the final nine points. Minnesota hit .500 as a team with just three errors in the second game.
Minnesota broke a 4-4 tie in the third game with five consecutive points, three on Berg's serve, to take a 9-4 lead. After Oregon scored two of the next three points, the Gophers scored the final five points of the match, the last on Axel's fourth service ace of the match. The Gophers scored 21 of their 45 points on Axel's serve.
The Gophers return to the state of Minnesota for seven of their next eight matches. Minnesota will host Northern Iowa at Century High School in Rochester on Wednesday at 7 p.m.