GophersThe 20th-ranked Minnesota volleyball team set a school record by winning its 15th Big Ten match of the season, defeating Illinois in three games, 15-12, 15-6, 16-14, in Champaign, Ill.
The Gophers (25-7, 15-4 Big Ten) clinched second place in the Big Ten with the win, its highest finish in the conference since 1989. It marks the third time in the NCAA era of volleyball that a Minnesota team has won 25 matches.
"I am thrilled with the way our team fought tonight," said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. "To win in this building, and to rally like we did in two of the games, it is really special."
Nicole Branagh led the Gophers with 24 kills at a .364 hitting percentage, and Stephanie Hagen added 11 kills. Charnette Fair set a new career high and led the Gophers with 11 blocks. Minnesota held a .248-.148 advantage in hitting percentage and a 16-9 in blocks.
Illinois scored the first six points of the match before Minnesota scored its first sideout. The Illini stretched the lead to 12-2 before the Gophers scored the final 13 points of the game. Minnesota began the comeback with six points on Yvonne Wichert's serve to trim the Illinois lead to 12-8. Lindsey Berg served the next two points, and Branagh served the final five points to end the game, 15-12. Branagh led Minnesota with six kills in the opening game, and Stephanie Hagen had three kills in three attempts.
The Gophers fell behind 5-3 in the second game, but scored the next 10 points, four on the serve of Hagen, to take a 13-5 lead. Branagh had six kills in the 10-point run. After an Illinois point, Branagh and Wichert each had kills to end the second game, 15-6. Branagh had 10 kills at a .450 hitting percentage, while the Gopher defense forced 21 Illinois hitting errors and held the Illini to a .000 hitting percentage.
Illinois jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third game, aided by two service aces from Amber Linder. Illinois extended the lead to 12-3 before Minnesota began its comeback, scoring five straight points to shave the lead to 12-8. Illinois earned a game point at 14-9, but Minnesota scored the final seven points of the match to end the night, 16-14. Illinois had five opportunities to win the third game, but Minnesota scored four kills and a block to deny the Illini.
The Gophers will conclude their 1999 regular season with a match at Indiana on Saturday at 6 p.m. (CST).
BIG TEN STANDINGS x-Penn State 19-0 29-1 Minnesota 15-4 25-7 Wisconsin 13-6 20-9 Illinois 11-8 15-10 Ohio State 10-9 16-10 Michigan State 9-10 19-12 Indiana 9-10 18-10 Purdue 7-12 15-13 Michigan 6-13 14-14 Iowa 3-16 4-22 Northwestern 2-16 4-24 x-clinched conference title Friday's Results Minnesota d. Illinois, 3-0 (15-12, 15-6, 16-14) Indiana d. Iowa, 3-0 (15-6, 15-12, 15-4) Ohio State d. Purdue, 3-1 (15-13, 16-14, 14-16, 15-13) Penn State d. Wisconsin, 3-1 (16-14, 10-15, 15-5, 15-9) Michigan at Northwestern Saturday's Matches Minnesota at Indiana, 6 p.m. Wisconsin at Ohio State, 6 p.m. Purdue at Penn State, 6:30 p.m. Iowa at Illinois, 7 p.m. Michigan State at Northwestern, 7 p.m. END REGULAR SEASON Sunday -- NCAA Tournament Selection, 9 p.m.