sThe No. 9 Minnesota volleyball team opened Big Ten play Friday night by sweeping Purdue, 15-8, 15-11, 15-8, before 2221 fans at the Sports Pavilion. The Golden Gophers are 12-0 for the first time in school history, while Purdue dropped to 8-5 in the conference opener for both teams.
"We weren't great tonight, but we were solid," said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. "Our blocking and our defense were good enough to erase some of the other mistakes that we made. I'm pleased to open the conference season with a three-game win.
Minnesota had three players register double figures in kills. Nicole Branagh led Minnesota with 16 kills and had 11 digs, matching Yvonne VanOort for team leadership. She now has 1,903 kills in her career, moving past Chris Schaefer for third place in Minnesota history and sixth place in Big Ten history. Stephanie Hagen added 15 kills at a .414 hitting percentage and led the Gophers with nine blocks. Charnette Fair had 11 kills and hit .409 for the match.
Purdue jumped out to leads in each of the three games. In the first game, the Boilermakers scored the first four points and led 6-3 before VanOort served four points to spark a 12-2 run to end the first game. Minnesota had 27 kills to Purdue's 17 in the first game, led by Hagen's eight kills in 14 attempts.
In the second game, Purdue held leads of 3-0 and 7-3, and took a 9-7 lead before Minnesota rolled off eight of the final 10 points to end the second game. Hagen served the final three points, with Branagh earning kills on all three points. The Boilermakers took a 5-1 lead in the third game, but Minnesota ran off seven points, six on the serve of Lisa Aschenbrenner, and did not trail for the remainder of the match. Fair was Minnesota's top hitter in the third game, smashing five kills in nine attempts.
Minnesota is two wins shy of its longest-ever winning streak, established in 1978. The Golden Gophers will host Illinois on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion.