The 12th-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (11-2, 1-0) claimed its Big Ten opener over Northwestern (6-6, 0-1) in three sets by scores of 25-22, 25-23, 26-24. With the win, the Golden Gophers have now won 10 straight Big Ten home openers.
“We knew we would have to come out and play well against a tough Northwestern team,” said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. “We have gone five sets with them three of the last five times we have played them, and we know it will always be a battle. I thought we did good job of jumping out to early leads, and we made some good adjustments against them throughout the match. It is always great to get a Big Ten victory, especially against a team that is always well-prepared like Northwestern.”
Minnesota was led by Brook Dieter (Bloomington, Minn.) who had 15 kills, nine digs, two service aces and two blocks on the night. Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) finished with 14 kills, hit .321 (14-5-28), had six blocks and two service aces. Pam Luiz (Limeira, Brazil) hit a career-high .562 (9-0-16) with nine kills, a career-high five blocks and five digs.
“I thought Pam (Luiz) was one of the most important players on the floor for us tonight,” said Hebert. “She had maybe her best match for us. Pam was a complete player in every part of her game tonight, and was a important part of our victory tonight.”
Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) had a match-high 22 digs and a service ace on the night. Rachel Hartmann (St. Charles, Ill.) also had 47 assists and 13 digs for the Golden Gophers.
Minnesota outhit Northwestern .214 to .181, and had 52 kills to 42 for the Wildcats on the night. The Golden Gophers also outblocked the Wildcats 12.0-to-6.0 for the match. Minnesota has outblocked every opponent it has faced this year. Minnesota also had 70 digs to 60 for Northwestern.
The Golden Gophers ran out to an 11-5 lead in the first set, and kept the six-point lead at 14-8 after a kill by Dieter. Northwestern scored four of the next five points to cut it to 15-12. The Wildcats cut the lead to two points at 18-16, but Luiz and Dieter had back-to-back kills to make it 20-16. Northwestern go the lead back to two points at 23-21, but committed a service error to make it set point at 24-21. After a Wildcat kill, Dieter delivered a kill to give Minnesota the first set.
In the first set, the Golden Gophers outhit Northwestern .325 to .282, and had 19 kills to 13 for the Wildcats. Gibbemeyer hit .700 (8-1-10) with eight kills, and Dieter had six kills in the set.
Northwestern jumped out to a 14-10 lead in the second set. Roehrig followed with a kill, and Kelly Schmidt (Champaign, Ill.) teamed with Dieter and then Luiz on a pair o blocks to cut it to 14-13. The Wildcats moved ahead 16-14, but Dieter had back-to-back kills to tie it. Gibbemeyer put Minnesota ahead 17-16, but Northwestern answered with consecutive kills to take an 18-17 lead.
The Wildcats moved out to a 21-18 lead after a kill by Alexandra Ayers. Gibbemeyer followed with a kill, and after a Northwestern attack error Schmidt and Kyla Roehrig (Papillion, Neb.) combined on a block to tie the set. Northwestern moved ahead 22-21, but Roehrig and Luiz had consecutive kill to put Minnesota ahead 23-22. Schmidt and Luiz teamed on a block to make it set point. After a Northwestern point, Schmidt put down a kill to put Minnesota ahead 2-0 in the match.
In the second set, the Golden Gophers outhit the Wildcats .171 to .136, and each team had 15 kills. Minnesota had six blocks to two for Northwester, and were paced by Schmidt who had four blocks in the set.
Minnesota led 21-16 in the third set after a kill by Gibbemeyer. However, the Wildcats fought back and scored seven of the next eight points to take a one-point lead at 23-22. After a Wildcat attack error tie it, Minnesota won a tough point when Tan made a great dig off a tip over the block and Schmidt delivered a clean set to Roehrig for a kill that made it match point.
Northwestern fought off the first match point, but Luiz answered with a kill to make it match point. Dieter followed with a kill that finished a point that featured several great digs by a Golden Gopher players to keep the rally alive.
The Wildcats were led by Chelsey Hyser who hit .533 (10-2-15) with 10 kills and a solo block. Sabel Moffett hit .375 (10-1-24) with 10 kills and five blocks. Katie Nobilio also had 17 digs on the night for Northwestern.
Minnesota will be back in action when it faces No. 18 Wisconsin on Saturday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. Prior to the match, Roehrig and Tan will be honored for the milestones (Roehrig 1,000 kills and Tan 1,000 digs) they reached in the last two weeks. That match can also be heard on gophersports.com.