Nicole Branagh had six of her career-high 40 kills in the fifth game as seventh-ranked Minnesota defeated 11th-ranked Penn State, 17-15, 15-12, 11-15, 6-15, 15-10, Saturday night before 5,116 fans at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis.
Branagh, who missed the school record for kills in a match by one, also set a career high with 29 digs. Yvonne VanOort (27 digs), Lisa Aschenbrenner (21 digs) and Lisa Axel (17 digs) also set career highs in digs, as the Gophers set a Sports Pavilion record with 124 digs. Stephanie Hagen had 18 kills, Charnette Fair added 16 kills and 10 blocks, and VanOort completed her second double-double in as many nights with 14 kills. Lindsey Berg set a career high with 86 assists, a Sports Pavilion record. Mishka Levy led Penn State with 33 kills, with Katie Schumacher and Cara Smith added 16 kills for the Nittany Lions.
The Gophers fought off four Penn State game points in the first game to take a 1-0 lead in the match. Minnesota scored the final three points of the game on a block by Fair and VanOort, a second block from VanOort and Hagen, and a Hagen kill. In the second game, Hagen served the final four point to erase a 12-11 Penn State lead. Branagh had a solo block and a kill in the rally, which ended with a Hagen ace.
Penn State took a 3-2 lead in the third game and never trailed for the remainder of the game. Levy and Schumacher each had five kills in the third game to lead the Nittany Lions. Penn State had a 13-1 run to establish control of the fourth game and tie the match. Levy had 11 kills in 25 attempts in the fourth game. In the rally game, Penn State had three one-point leads, the last at 3-2, before the Gophers went on a 5-1 run to take a 7-4 lead. Minnesota never trailed for the remainder of the match. Branagh had six kills in 13 attempts in the final game, leading Minnesota to a .556 hitting percentage in the fifth game.
Minnesota (23-2, 12-2 Big Ten) completes its first-ever season sweep of Penn State (21-5, 10-4 Big Ten), having defeated the Nittany Lions in four games on Sept. 29 to break Penn State's 87-match home winning streak. It is the first time Penn State has been swept by a Big Ten team since 1995, when Michigan State and Ohio State swept the Nittany Lions. Minnesota pulls to within a half-match of idle Wisconsin, who will play Ohio State in Columbus on Sunday.
The Golden Gophers return to the road next week, with a match at Illinois on Friday at 7 p.m.
BIG TEN STANDINGS Wisconsin 12-1 22-2 Minnesota 12-2 23-2 Ohio State 11-2 21-2 Penn State 10-4 21-5 Michigan State 7-7 14-9 Iowa 7-7 11-11 Michigan 5-9 15-10 Indiana 5-9 14-10 Illinois 3-11 12-13 Purdue 3-11 11-15 Northwestern 1-13 4-20 Friday's Matches Minnesota d. Indiana, 3-0 (15-2, 18-16, 15-11) Illinois d. Michigan State, 3-2 (15-6, 4-15, 15-12, 1-15, 15-12) Michigan d. Purdue, 3-0 (15-5, 15-5, 15-9) Ohio State d. Northwestern, 3-0 (15-1, 15-9, 15-13) Penn State d.Iowa, 3-2 (15-13, 15-17, 12-15, 15-8, 16-14) Saturday's Matches Minnesota d. Penn State, 3-2 (17-15, 15-12, 11-15, 6-15, 15-10) Michigan d. Illinois, 3-0 (15-10, 16-14, 15-6) Michigan State d. Purdue, 3-1 (15-6, 10-15, 15-5, 15-6) Indiana d. Iowa, 3-0 (15-7, 15-11, 15-13) Sunday's Match Wisconsin at Ohio State, 1