Gophers Set to Start Big Ten Second Half at Northwestern and Illinois

Go Gophers! Harms, Tabberson and the rest of the Gophers travel to Northwestern and Illinois
Go Gophers!
Harms, Tabberson and the rest of the Gophers travel to Northwestern and Illinois
Go Gophers!

Oct. 26, 2011

Weekly Notes

The No. 15 University of Minnesota volleyball program is on the road for the second-straight week as they travel to Northwestern and No. 3 Illinois, Oct. 28-29. Both matches start at 7 p.m. Both games will be availalbe through the BTN.com and Gopher All-Access package.

Minnesota faced Northwestern on Sept. 25, at the Sports Pavilion. After trailing in the first set, Minnesota earned a 3-1 win over the Wildcats. Minnesota was led by Ashley Wittman, who had 20 kills and 14 digs. Kellie McNeil saw her first action at the setter position and had 33 assists in 36 attempts. Ariana Filho had eight kills and a team-best .333 hitting percentage. Steffi Sooter had a match-high 23 digs and Katherine Harms had a season-best six block assists. Hailey Cowles also recorded a double double when she had 10 kills and 16 digs.

Minnesota hosted No. 3 Illinois, Sept, 23, at the Sports Pavilion and fell in five sets. Brianna Haugen had her first career start and had a career-high seven kills and a career-high 14 attempts. Hailey Cowles held a double double when she had a season-best 16 kills and 10 digs. Ashley Wittman had 18 kills and 16 digs, while Tori Dixon had 13. Jessica Granquist and Steffi Sooter each had 20 digs.

Since Minnesota played Northwestern, the Wildcats won two conference matches against Indiana (10/1) and Iowa (10/22). Northwestern lost in five sets at Penn State (10/5) and four at Ohio State (10/8), before dropping four set and five set matches to Michigan State and Michigan at home (10/14-15).

Illinois went undefeated until its last match, falling in four to host Nebraska on Saturday. Prior to their loss, the Illini played in only two other five-set matches (excluding Minnesota) against Penn State (10/8) and Michigan State (10/15). Illinois went from being ranked No. 3 in the country, to No. 1, before the Nebraska match, its only loss of the season.

Minnesota is 48-17 all-time against Northwestern, including a 3-1 win over the Wildcats in September. Minnesota, however, will look for its first win in Evanston, Ill., Oct. 17, 2009. The Gophers fell in four sets last year (10/10/10).
Minnesota has gone 28-38 all-time against Illinois, including a five-set loss to the Illini in September. The last win against Illinois, however, came in Champaign, Ill., in a five-set win on Nov. 20, 2010. 

The Golden Gophers has had nearly half of their matches go to five sets. Minnesota has played 19 matches this season, nine of which have gone to five sets. The Gophers hold a 5-4 record in five-set matches, are 6-2 in three-set matches and 1-1 in four-set matches. The nine five-set contests ranks the highest in the Big Ten, while the next closest are Illinois and Nebraska each with six. The Illini holds a 6-0 record and Nebraska is at 5-1.

Heading into the second-half of the Big Ten season, four teams are locked at 5-5 conference records. Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota and Ohio State all have 5-5 records with Michigan State holding the best overall record of the four (16-6). The Gophers will host all three of those teams in the second half of the Big Ten season, as well as Penn State, Michigan and Indiana. The only team the Gophers will not host at the Sports Pavilion is Purdue.

Minnesota was nearly in the same place it was last year before it made a second-half push. the Gophers were ranked 20th on Oct. 25, 2010 after it fell to then. No. 6 Illinois in five sets and defeated Wisconsin in four. At this time last year, the Gophers were 5-5 in conference play, tied for fifth in the league standings and held a 15-7 overall record. Heading into the second portion of the Big Ten season, the Gophers won both matches against Iowa and Northwestern.

Minnesota has been on the road more than it has been at home so far this season, posting an 8-5 record away from Minnesota. The Gophers went 1-1 in the AVCA Showcase, 2-1 in the UNI Tourney, 2-0 in the Marquette Tournament and now 3-3 on the road against Big Ten opponents. Minnesota has had the least amount of home matches in the Big Ten to date.

After being on the road for seven of the 10 weeks, the Golden Gophers will be home three of the four weeks in the month of November. Minnesota hosts three matches in six days when No. 8 and defending national champions Penn State come to town, Nov. 4 (live Big Ten Network game) at 8 p.m., while No. 23 Ohio State visits the Sports Pavilion, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. Then on Wednesday Nov. 9, the Gophers welcome Michigan State (live Big Ten Network game) at 7 p.m.