ChThe No. 21 Golden Gopher volleyball team continued to find life on the road in the Big Ten Conference very difficult as Illinois swept Minnesota, 3-0 (30-21-30-24, 30-21), in action at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill., on Friday. Minnesota, which has dropped its last five Big Ten matches on the road, falls to 11-8 overall and 5-6 in conference play. Illinois, the winners of six straight matches, improved to 14-5, 7-4 Big Ten.
Minnesota never found its stride offensively, hitting just .121 for the match. Illinois, hitting .316, captured an overwhelming 49-36 advantage in kills. The service game was hindered the Minnesota effort as the Gophers committed 13 service errors. The Gophers were held without a double-digit kill performer, with Stephanie Hagen and Amanda Cipperly tallying eight kills to lead the way.
Minnesota's offense struggled in the first two games. The Gophers hit .179 in the first game and .091 in the second game as Illinois efficiently took a two-game lead by scores of 30-21 and 30-24. Illinois, the Big Ten's top blocking team, used its offense that hit .351 in the games and a hustling defense to capture the momentum.
Illinois sprinted to a 6-1 lead in the first game. Minnesota fought back to within one point at 7-6, on a Hagen service ace and an assisted block from Bethany Brafford and Cipperly. But it was as close as the Gophers would be the rest of the game. Illinois scored the next four points to establish another lead. The Gophers helped the Illini by committing five service errors, scoring Illinois? 27th, 28th and 29th point.
Minnesota's only lead in the second game was at 1-0, when Illinois started the game with a hitting error. Another Gopher service error broke a 3-3 tie and ignited a 12-4 Illinois run, as the Illini took a 15-8 lead. Minnesota Erin Lorenzen and Brafford combined for a block and Lorenzen added a solo as the Gophers rallied late, coming to within 27-23. Two more Gopher service errors helped Illinois close the game with a 30-24 win.
The third game's outcome was much the same as Minnesota repeated its .091 hitting percentage performance in the deciding game, losing 30-21. Senior setter Lindsey Berg reinjured her left ankle in the game, going to the bench with Illinois leading 17-9. The Gophers rallied to 21-18 with their fallen leader on the bench with Cassie Busse contributing a kill and an ace, but Illinois rebounded and outscored the Gophers, 9-3, to close the match.
Minnesota continues its doubleheader weekend on the road with a match at Indiana tomorrow.