It is the beginning of the Big Ten volleyball season, and gophersports.com will be running a live blog of Minnesota's Big Ten season opener against Northwestern on Friday, Sept. 26. The Golden Gophers will look to win their 10th straight Big Ten home opener as they match up against the Wildcats. So tune into gophersports.com for the webcast, and follow the blog during the match. Also, feel free to send a note with a question or comment on the blog, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
6:55 p.m. - Minnesota prepares to open up Big Ten play against Northwestern at the Sports Pavilion. The Golden Gophers and Wildcats have played five-set matches in three of their last five meetings dating back to 2005. Last year, the two teams split a pair of meeting. Northwestern won in five sets at Evanston on Oct. 20, 2007 and Minnesota claimed a three-set victory at home on Nov. 17, 2007 as part of a five-match winning streak towards the end of the Big Ten schedule. The Golden Gophers have won seven of their last eight matches, while the Wildcats went 2-1 last week and lost a tough four-set match to No. 4 UCLA at home.
7:05 p.m. - The two teams are going through introductions. On the floor for Minnesota to start the match are sophomore defensive specialist Hailey Cowles, senior middle blocker Kelly Schmidt, sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter, senior setter Rachel Hartmann, junior opposite hitter Pam Luiz and junior libero Christine Tan. Around the league, Penn State and Michigan are already 1-0. The Wolverines defeated Ohio State in three sets on Wednesday, and the Nittany Lions won in three sets over Purdue.
7:15 p.m. - Minnesota ran out to an 11-5 lead to force a Northwestern timeout. The Golden Gophers were paced by four kills from Lauren Gibbemeyer during that span. After the North Carolina loss Christine Tan talked about how Minnesota practices drills to make sure it gets to eight points before the other team. This is even further emphasized with the change from 30-point sets to 25-point sets this year.
7:25 p.m. - The Golden Gophers moved ahead 13-6, but saw their lead whittled down to two points at 18-16. Minnesota responded with back-to-back kills by Luiz and Roehrig to push the lead to 20-16 to force a second Northwestern timeout.
7:32 p.m. - Minnesota led 22-19 in the first set, but Northwestern cut it to 23-21. Northwestern committed a service error to make it set point at 24-21. After a Wildcat point, Dieter put the set away with a kill. The Golden Gophers hit .325 with 19 kills in the first set, while Northwestern hit .282 with 13 kills. Gibbemeyer hit .700 (8-1-10) with eight kills in the set, while Dieter had six kills. Minnesota is 12-1 in first sets this year.
7:45 p.m. - Minnesota jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second set, but Northwestern scored nine of the next 10 points to move ahead 10-6. The Golden Gophers cut it to 10-9, but the Wildcats moved back ahead 14-10. After a Roehrig kill, Minnesota's block came to life as Kelly Schmidt combined with Dieter and then Luiz on consecutive blocks to cut the lead to 14-13 to force a Northwestern timeout.
8:00 p.m. - Minnesota claimed the second set to move ahead 2-0 in the match. The Golden Gophers took the lead back at 17-16 on a Gibbemeyer kill. Northwestern moved back ahead 19-17, and led 21-18. However, Gibbemeyer delivered a kill and Northwestern had back-to-back attack errors to tie the set at 21. With the score tied at 22, Luiz had a kill and combined on a block with Schmidt to give Minnesota set point at 24-22. After an attack error made it 24-23, Schmidt took a quick set in the middle and put it down with a kill to put the Golden Gophers ahead 25-23. Minnesota's block came to life in the second set, as the Golden Gophers outblocked the Wildcats 6.0-to-2.0 in the set. Schmidt tallied four blocks in the set.
8:10 p.m. - In other conference action on the night, Illinois won at Indiana in four sets and Michigan State won at home in four sets over Ohio State. Iowa is also leading Wisconsin two sets to zero at this point.
8:15 p.m - Northwestern jumped out to a 7-5 lead in the third set. Minnesota battled back to tie it at eight, and got consecutive kills from Hartmann and Schmidt. Luiz followed with a solo block, and then recorded a kill when she surprised the Wildcat defense by tipping an out of control over the next and to the floor. The Wildcats called timeout at 12-8, and scored four consecutive points to tie at 12.
8:22 p.m. - Northwestern wrestled the lead away from Minnesota momentarily at 16-15, but Gibbemeyer followed with a kill and combined on a block with Roehrig to give the Golden Gophers the lead back. Hartmann and Gibbemeyer combined on a block for the next point. The Wildcats called timeout after a Dieter service ace made it 19-16. Dieter and Gibbemeyer came out of the timeout with consecutive kills to make it 21-16. Northwestern fought back with three straight points to cut the lead to 21-19 to force a Minnesota timeout.
9:05 p.m. - Minnesota trailed 23-22 in the third set, but tied it at 23. The Golden Gophers made it match point after a great dig by Tan on a tip over the block. Schmidt delivered a perfect set to Roehrig who terminated it to give Minnesota match point. Northwestern tied it at 24, but Luiz delivered a kill to make it match point at 25-24. After several great digs, Dieter delivered a kill to give the Golden Gophers the three-set victory.
The Golden Gophers got 15 kills and nine digs from Dieter and 14 kills and six blocks from Gibbemeyer. In the postmatch press gathering, Mike Hebert praised Luiz for her great all-around play and said it was perhaps her best match of the year. She had nine kills, a career-high five blocks and five digs. Tan had a match-high 22 digs.
Minnesota will face No. 18 Wisconsin tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion. The Badgers lost in three sets to Iowa earlier tonight. Christine Tan and Kyla Roehrig will be honored before the match for the milestones they reached (Roehrig - 1,000 kills and Tan - 1,000 digs) the last two weeks.