StephaThe eighth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team received 25 kills from Nicole Branagh and 21 kills from Stephanie Hagen and defeated Illinois, 15-5, 15-10, 15-17, 15-6, in Champaign, Ill. The Golden Gophers (24-2, 13-2 Big Ten) remain one match behind Wisconsin in the Big Ten standings, while Illinois falls to 12-14, 3-12 in the Big Ten.
Branagh hit .316 in the match and now has 2,200 kills in her career, 100 shy of the Minnesota and Big Ten career record held by former Gopher Katrien DeDecker. Hagen set a Minnesota school record for a four-game match with 13 blocks, and added 11 digs to complete Minnesota's first triple-double since 1996. Shadia Haddad had 20 kills to lead Illinois.
Minnesota erased a 2-0 Illinois lead in the first game with eight consecutive points to establish an 8-2 lead. Lisa Aschenbrenner served three of the points, two on service aces, and Yvonne VanOort served the final three points of the run. After two Illinois points, Minnesota ran off five more points to take a 13-4 lead and cruised to the 15-5 victory. The Gophers were dominant at the net with an 8-0 blocking advantage and a .441-.125 edge in hitting percentage.
Illinois blasted off to leads of 5-0 and 6-1 before Minnesota recovered with a five-point run to tie the game, 6-6. The Illini scored the next two points before the Gophers responded with four in a row to take their first lead of the game, 10-8. The teams exchanged points before Lisa Axel served the final four points to give Minnesota a 15-10 win. Branagh had nine kills to lead Minnesota in the second game.
Minnesota jumped to the lead in the third game, scoring the first three points and extending the lead to 13-3. Illinois rallied against Minnesota's bench, scoring ten of the next 11 points to tie the match at 14-14. After the teams traded points, a kill by Betsy Spicer and an ace by Heather Wilson gave Illinois the third game, 17-15. The Gophers committed 10 hitting errors in the third game and hit .108 in the third game.
The Gophers erased a 2-1 Illinois lead with seven consecutive points, five on Hagen's serve, to take an 8-2 lead. The Illini responded with four of the next five point to trim Minnesota's lead to 9-6, but the Gophers scored the final six points of the match to close out the victory. The Gophers hit .400 in the final game to secure the victory.
The Golden Gophers conclude their two-match road trip at Purdue on Saturday at 6 p.m. (CST).
BIG TEN STANDINGS Wisconsin 14-1 24-2 Minnesota 13-2 24-2 Ohio State 11-4 21-4 Penn State 11-4 22-5 Iowa 8-7 12-11 Michigan State 7-8 14-10 Michigan 7-9 17-10 Indiana 5-10 14-11 Illinois 3-12 12-14 Purdue 3-12 11-16 Northwestern 1-14 4-21 Friday's Matches Minnesota d. Illinois, 3-1 (15-5, 15-10, 15-17, 15-6) Wisconsin d. Indiana, 3-1 (15-11, 11-15, 15-1, 15-8) Iowa d. Purdue, 3-0 (15-10, 15-7, 15-8) Michigan d. Ohio State, 3-0 (15-13, 15-9, 15-9) Penn State d. Northwestern, 3-0 (15-4, 15-4, 15-9) Saturday's Matches Minnesota at Purdue, 6 Northwestern at Indiana, 6 Ohio State at Michigan State, 6 Wisconsin at Penn State, 6:30 Iowa at Illinois, 7