Gophers Close out Regular Season This Week
Lindsey Lawmaster
 Minnesota (14-1, 2-0) vs. Wisconsin/Illinois
 Match Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
 Date/Time Wednesday, November 27 / 7 p.m.
 Location Sports Pavilion
 Promotion $4 General Admission tickets (advance only)
 Travel Local Weather | Parking | Preferred Hotels
 Live Video Gopher All-Access
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Blog Game Day Live
 Match Minnesota at Illinois
 Date/Time Saturday, November 30 / 7 p.m.
 Location Champaign, Ill.
 Live Video Gopher All-Access
 Live Stats Gametracker
 Live Blog Game Day Live
 Social Media  @GopherVball | Facebook

Nov. 26, 2013

The No. 11 University of Minnesota volleyball team closes out the Big Ten Conference season this week as it faces No. 13 Wisconsin Wednesday and No. 18 Illinois, Saturday. The Wednesday contest against the Badgers marks the final regular season home match of the year. Minnesota will honor seniors Tori Dixon, Alexandra Palmer and Ashley Wittman following the match.

Minnesota closes out the regular season, Saturday, Nov. 30th in Champaign, Ill. It will be the first and only meeting between the Gophers and the Illini. Match time is set for 7 p.m.

Gopher All-Access will broadcast both the Wisconsin and Illinois match this week. A live blog as well as live stats will also be available through

Following their match against Illinois Saturday, Minnesota and the rest of the Division I institutions will await for the NCAA selection show. The tournament field will be announced on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m., Dec. 1. NCAA first and second round competition begins Dec. 6-7 at designated locations nationwide. The winners head to regional sites at USC, Illinois, Nebraska and Kentucky.

Minnesota ranks 13th in the recent RPI, a system used to help determine the NCAA postseason. Holding the No. 1 spot is Texas, followed by Penn State, Washington, Florida and Missouri. Along with Big Ten teams highly ranked, the Gophers also faced Kentucky and Duke in the non-conference schedule. The Wildcats are ranked ninth, followed by the Blue Devils 18th.

Of Minnesota’s six losses, four came against ranked teams on the road. The Gophers fell at Kentucky (9/14), at Nebraska (10/4), at Penn State (10/9) and at Wisconsin (10/23), while they dropped two contests at home to the Huskers and Nittany Lions. Overall, Minnesota is 7-6 against ranked teams this season.

Minnesota has drawn well this year at the Sports Pavilion. In 12 home matches this season, the Gophers have averaged 4,225 fans this year. In fact, against Penn State (11/16) the attendance ranked as the second-highest volleyball match at the Sports Pavilion. In a sellout, the Gophers drew 5,748 fans against the Nittany Lions. Prior to that, the season’s best attendance came on Oct. 19 when the Gophers packed in 5,638 fans against Michigan. On the season, the University of Minnesota ranks third nationally in average attendance.

Minnesota continues to play well on its home court. The Gophers are 65-11 in the last five seasons at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota fell just once at home last year and boasted a 15-1 home record. In 2011, the Gophers were 10-5 and went 16-2 in 2010. The loss to Nebraska (11/10) ended a 19-match home win streak, dating back to the 2012 season. The Gophers are 9-2 this year at home.

Minnesota defeated Michigan and Michigan State last weekend and went 4-0 against the two teams. The wins mark the first time Minnesota has gone undefeated against the Wolverines and Spartans since 2005.

Minnesota produced 12.5 blocks in three sets against the Wolverines. That’s a conference-best mark for the Gophers in three sets. Minnesota also hit .385 against Michigan, its third-highest hitting clip by the Gophers in league action. Minnesota hit .393 and .410 against Indiana earlier this year.

Ashley Wittman and Tori Dixon have been honored by the Big Ten Conference after stellar performances last weekend against ranked Michigan and Michigan State. Wittman was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, while Dixon was honored as the league’s Defensive Player of the Week. The accolades mark the third for Wittman this season and the fifth for Dixon. Overall, Minnesota has amassed nine weekly honors this year.

Wittman led the Gophers offensively and defensively this past weekend. Against the Wolverines, Wittman recorded a double-double when she had 15 kills and 10 digs. On Saturday, she followed with an 18-kill performance and provided 19 digs. On the weekend, Wittman hit .386 to average 4.71 kills per set. Her 29 digs were also a team-best as she averaged 4.14 per set. She ranked second in the Big Ten this past weekend in kills, seventh in hitting percentage, fourth in points (5.07 per set) and sixth in digs. She now has 14 double-doubles this season.

Dixon provided an outstanding weekend on her own. On Friday against the Wolverines, Dixon hit .556, had 15 kills and added six blocks. On Saturday against the Spartans, she added another seven blocks and eight kills. Her 13 blocks this past weekend led the Big Ten. As a middle hitter, Dixon hit .360 on the weekend, averaged 1.9 blocks per set and 3.29 kills per set.  On the season, Dixon has hit over .500 12 times this year.

In conference action alone, Ashley Wittman has 245 digs and ranks 10th in digs against conference opponents. She’s the lone position player in that list as all others are the team’s libero or defensive specialist. Wittman had 29 digs against Northwestern (10/27), the most by any Gopher player since 2011. She also provided a team-best 19 against Michigan State last weekend.

Ashley Wittman reached her career kill No. 1,500 against Indiana (9/25) and heading into the week sits at 1,720 in her career. Her kills currently rank fifth nationally among active leaders. Dixon ranks 23rd in the same category at 1,410 and also ranks 14th in career hitting percentage with a .366 mark.

Minnesota seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman have each had standout performances for the Gophers this season. In all, Dixon has led the Gophers in match kills 16 times, followed by Wittman with 10. Wittman also has 14 double-doubles, a team best and has led the Gophers in match digs 18 times.

Wisconsin enters the Minnesota match with a 22-8 overall record and 11-7 in Big Ten play. The Badgers are riding a three-match win streak. After a loss to Penn State, the Badgers defeated Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan. Ellen Chapman leads the Badgers with 405 kills, while Deme Morales follows with 305. Rookie setter Lauren Carlini has 107 kills and 1112 assists and Annemarie Hickey has a team-best 342 digs.

One of the hottest teams in the Big Ten Conference is Illinois, entering the weekend with a 15-13 overall record and tied for fourth in the league with an 11-7 mark. The Illini won six-straight before No. 2 Penn State defeated them lat weekend, 3-1 in State College. Jocelynn Birks leads the offensive charge for Illinois with 428 kills and averages a team-best 3.96 per set. Setter Alexis Viliunas has 1052 assists, 287 digs and averages .42 blocks per set, while libero Jennifer Beltran has 448 digs.   

Minnesota fell to the Badgers in four  sets on Oct. 23, which ended a 10-match Gopher win streak. All time, Minnesota is 42-33 against the Badgers, dating back to 1975. This is the first meeting between the Gophers and Illinois this year. Minnesota is 31-38-1 all time against the Illini and won both matches last season in straight sets.




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