Gophers Rally to Defeat No. 9 Illinois Minnesota fought off four match points in the fourth set en route to winning a five-set match over No. 9 Illinois at Huff Hall on Saturday, Nov. 20.
The 19th-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (22-8, 12-6) fought off four match points in the fourth set en route to winning a five-set match over No. 9 Illinois (22-6, 14-4) by scores of 25-22, 18-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-9 at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill. on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Minnesota has now won five matches in a row, and is 7-1 in its last eight conference matches after starting out 5-5. With the win, the Gophers snapped a 22-match Illinois home winning streak.
Illinois appeared to be on the way to claim the home victory in the fourth set when Colleen Ward and Johannah Bangert combined to block Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) to make it match point at 24-20. Tabi Love (Dauphin, Manitoba) and Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) answered with kills forcing an Illini timeout at 24-22. Dixon followed with another kill and had a solo block on Bangert to tie the set at 24. Dixon made it set point at 25-24 with a kill, and Michelle Bartsch hit the next shot into the net to force a fifth set.
In the fifth set, Minnesota jumped out to a 4-0 lead when Gibbemeyer and Ashley Wittman (Shakopee, Minn.) sandwiched kill around a pair of Illinois attack errors. After back-to-back kills by Wittman, Ward had an attack error to put the Gophers up 7-1.
Illinois cut the lead to 9-6 on a kill by Bartsch, but Dixon and Katherine Harms (Albertville, Minn.) answered with kills to put the Gophers ahead 11-6. Dixon and Harms also each had kills for the next two Minnesota points to keep it at a four-point lead at 13-9. After an attack error by Bartsch, Gibbemeyer and Mia Tabberson (Muncie, Ind.) combined on a block to complete the incredible come-from-behind victory.
Gibbemeyer hit .469 (18-3-32) on the night and had 18 kills and five blocks. Wittman also finished with 18 kills to go with 12 digs. Dixon hit .414 (14-2-29), had 14 kills and three blocks. On the night, the Gopher middle blockers had 32 kills and hit .443. Harms finished also hit .438 (8-1-16), and finished with eight kills, 10 digs and tied a career-high with three service aces.
Junior Jessica Granquist (Blaine, Minn.) had 18 digs and a career-best six assists, while Steffi Sooter (Santa Cruz, Calif.) finished with a career-high 17 digs. Sophomore Mia Tabberson (Muncie, Ind.) also had 54 assists, seven digs, three kills and two blocks. It was the third time in four matches that Tabberson has collected more than 50 assists.
Minnesota won a first-set dominated by offense by outhitting Illinois .381 (18-2-42) to .349 (19-4-43). The Gophers had only two errors on their way to claiming the set. The Illini answered by limiting Minnesota to a .135 (13-8-37) hitting percentage in the second set, while staying red hot at .371 (16-3-35).
The Gophers outhit Illinois .357 (14-4-28) to .257 (14-5-35) in the third set, but the Illini used four service aces to propel them to a 25-23 third-set victory. After fighting back to claim the fourth set, Minnesota did not make an error in the fifth set as it hit .455 (10-0-22) and had 10 kills in 22 swings. The Gophers limited Illinois to a .000 (5-5-22) hitting percentage in the final set.
Minnesota outhit Illinois .298 (70-19-171) to .251 (69-25-175) on the night. The Gophers narrowly outblocked the Illini eight to seven, but Illinois had 76 digs to 68 for Minnesota. Illinois also had seven service aces to give for the Gophers.
Illinois was led by Bartsch who had 18 kills and 14 digs on the night. Erin Johnson also hit .407 (15-4-27) and had 15 kills, while Bangert hit .450 (11-2-20) with 11 kills and five blocks. Ward had 13 kills and 12 digs, while Jazmine Orozco finished with 12 kills. Setter Hilary Haen had 61 assists, eight digs and four blocks, while Jennifer Bonilla finished with a match-high 26 digs, four assists and two service aces.
Minnesota will be back in action when it hosts Ohio State on Friday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers will then welcome in No. 7 Penn State on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 8:30 p.m. That match will be shown live on the Big Ten Network. Following the Penn State match, Minnesota will honor senior Lauren Gibbemeyer as part of the Senior Day festivities.