The sixth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (29-3, 16-1) defeated Indiana (18-3, 8-9) in three games by scores of 30-23, 30-19, and 30- 22 on Friday, Nov. 22 at the Sports Pavilion. With the win the Golden Gophers claimed sole possession of their first Big Ten Championship in school history, and tied its fourth longest winning streak in school history with 11 straight wins.
"I want to thank the team, they are one of the most enjoyable groups I have ever had," Head Coach Mike Hebert said. "A championship does not come along every day and you want to enjoy every second of it. You can't describe the cluster of feelings, but it feels really good. It's better than all the other championships (Hebert won four Big Ten titles at Illinois in 1986, 87, 88 and 92) because I am here at Minnesota."
In the third and final game it was senior defensive specialist Lisa Axel (Buffalo, Minn.) befittingly serving the matches final point as Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) and Bratford ended the match on a block to seal sole possession of the Big Ten Title. Minnesota took game three and the match winning 30-22. The Golden Gophers utilized a 6-2 scoring run with the score 12-9 to take and 18-11 lead. With the score at 21-15, Minnesota went on to score nine of the final 16 points to seal the victory.
The Golden Gophers took game one 30-23 to go up 1-0 in the match. Minnesota jumped out to a 13-7 lead forcing Indiana to call a timeout. The Hoosiers fought their way back with a 7-3 scoring run to bring the score to 16-14. However, Minnesota went on a 8-3 run to help seal the victory. Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) led the Golden Gophers with six kills as Minnesota had 18 kills to only nine for Indiana.
In game two, Minnesota took a 2-0 match lead with a 30-19 win. The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 17-6 lead, on the strength of a 9-3 scoring run and never looked back. Trisha Bratford (Reseda, Calif.) paced Minnesota with five kills, while Paul Gentil (Fortaleza Ceara, Brazil) added 10 digs. Indiana was held to a -.064 hitting percentage for the game.
Bratford led the way with 12 kills and four blocks. Gentil also set a record for most digs in a three game match with 26 passing Chris Schaefer's previous mark of 24. She also moved into second place on the all-time list for digs with 473. Cassie Busse (Prior Lake, Minn.) and Martin each added 10 kills, Lindsey Vander Well (Prinsburg, Minn.) added 42 assists and 11 assists in the match.
"We never doubted ourselves all year," Erin Martin said. "We knew what we could do. Just because no one expected that we could (win the Big Ten), didn't mean we believed it too."
Minnesota outhit Indiana .260 to .094. The Golden Gophers also outblocked the Hoosiers 12.0 to 6.0 on the night.
Indiana was led by Christina Archibald who had 12 kills, while Victoria Zimmerman chipped in with 31 assists.
Minnesota will host No. 25 Ohio State on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.