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The fifth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (28-4, 17-3) won its seventh in a row with a three-game victory over Illinois (18-10, 10- 9) at Huff Hall on Friday, Nov. 26. With the win the Golden Gophers clinch at least a tie for second place in the Big Ten, and would share the conference championship if Penn State loses to Michigan tomorrow night.
Minnesota has now finished second place or higher in the Big Ten in five of the past six seasons.
The Golden Gophers also tied a school record this season with 17 Big Ten wins and tied their second-best regular season with total with 28 wins.
The three-game victory over Illinois was the first at Huff Hall since Nov. 1, 2003, and Minnesota's first at Illinois since Nov. 26, 2000.
"This is a good win in a very tough to place to play," said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. "Illinois has picked off a lot of ranked teams here lately, and we are happy that we came in here and won tonight. It is also a good way to finish off the regular season."
Tonight's win also put Mike Hebert at 799 wins, just one short of becoming the fifth active coach in women's volleyball to record 800 career victories.
Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) had 15 kills on the night, while Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) had 11 and hit .429 (11-2-21). Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) hit .750 (9-0-12) on the night, while Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) hit .615 (9-1-13). Bowman also had nine kills, 10 digs, 25 assists and two service aces.
Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) had seven kills, 15 digs and 24 assists on the night. Paula Gentil (Foreleza Ceara', Brazil) finished with 16 digs and two service aces, while Lisa Reinhart (White Bear Lake, Minn.) had 15 digs on the night.
With the win against Illinois, Minnesota has now concluded regular- season play with a 28-4 overall record. The Golden Gophers will await the announcement of the NCAA Tournament matchups on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 5:45 p.m. on ESPNNews. Stay tuned for more information regarding the NCAA Tournament on gophersports.com.
Illinois took an early 8-6 lead in game one, but Minnesota ran off four consecutive points to take a 10-8 lead to force Illinois to call a timeout. Illinois scored the first point out of the timeout to cut it to 10-9, but the Golden Gophers came back with three of the next four points to take a 13-10 lead. Martin had kills on all three of the points during the run. Illinois responded with three straight points to tie the game at 13. Minnesota answered with the next four points to take a 17-13 lead. Illinois scored four of the next six points to cut the lead to 19-17. Byrnes followed by delivering a kill and Bowman had a service ace to push the lead to 21-17, but Illinois rattled off the next three points to cut the lead down to 21-20.
The two teams exchanged the next two points to make it 22-21. However, Minnesota ran off four of the next five points to push its lead out to 26-22. The Golden Gophers scored three of the next five points to push it to game point at 29-24. Jen Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) came in and delivered a service ace to give Minnesota game one 30-24.
Minnesota hit .390 in the first game with 21 kills to Illinois's 16. Nelson, Byrnes and Martin each had five kills in the game, while Taatjes had eight digs.
The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 6-1 lead in game two, but Illinois scored four of the next six points to cut the lead to 8-5. Minnesota came right back with four of the next five points to take a 12-6 lead to force Illinois to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, Illinois scored five of the next six points to cut the lead to 13-11. Illinois cut the score to 16-15, but committed a pair of attack errors to give Minnesota an 18-15 lead that forced an Illinois timeout. The Golden Gophers scored three of the next four points out of the timeout to extend their lead to 21-16.
Illinois scored four of the next five points to cut the lead to 22- 20, but Minnesota responded with the next two points to push it back out to 24-20. Illinois came right back with four of the next six points to cut it to 26-24 to force the Golden Gophers to call a timeout. Kelly Bowman delivered a kill out of the timeout to make it 27-24, but Illinois cut it to 27-26 with the next two points. Bratford halted Illinois' momentum with a kill to make it 28-26. The Golden Gophers moved ahead 29-26 on an Illinois attack error, and Martin ended the game with a solo block to give Minnesota a 30-26 game-two victory.
Minnesota outhit Illinois .438 to .189, but had 16 kills to 20 for Illinois. Martin paced the Golden Gophers with five kills, while Gentil and Reinhart each had six digs in the game.
Illinois jumped out to a 4-2 lead in game three, but Minnesota answered with seven of the next 10 points to take a 9-7 lead. Illinois tied it at nine, but the Golden Gophers scored three consecutive points to go up 12-9 to force an Illinois timeout. Martin delivered a kill out of the timeout to give Minnesota a 13-9 lead. Illinois scored five of the next seven points to cut the lead to 15- 14. The Golden Gophers responded with three of the next four points to take an 18-15 lead.
The score moved to 19-17, but Minnesota ran off three straight points to extend the lead to 22-17. Illinois scored five of the next seven points to cut the Minnesota lead down to 24-22 to force the Golden Gophers to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, Kelly Bowman and Bratford put down consecutive kills to move the lead up to 26-22. Illinois cut the lead to 27-24, but Taatjes came back with a kill to move it to 28-24. Illinois scored two in a row to make it 28-26, but Martin delivered a kill to make it match point at 29-26. Illinois fought off two match points to make it 29-28 to force Minnesota to call a timeout. Out of the timeout, Taatjes delivered a kill to give Minnesota the match when the ball rebounded off an Illinois block and right to her.
Minnesota outhit Illinois .352 to .241 on the night, and had 59 kills to Illinois' 54. The Golden Gophers also outdug Illinois 63 to 45, and had five service aces to one in the match.
Illinois was led by Jessica Belter who had 16 kills and hit .389 (16- 2-36) for the match. Rachel VanMeter and Rasa Virsilaite finished with 14 and 13 kills respectively. Setter Stephanie Obermeier had 42 assists and eight digs.