The Minnesota volleyball team (24-8, 15-5) defeated No. 5 Illinois (24-5, 16-4) in three sets by scores of 25-23, 25-23, 25-22 at the Sports Pavilion on Saturday, Nov. 28. With the win, the Golden Gophers have now won 15 or more Big Ten matches in eight of the last 11 seasons.
Minnesota was led by junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) who hit .500 (18-3-30) with 18 kills and five blocks on the night. It was the 18th time this season that Gibbemeyer has hit over .400 in a match.
"Tonight was a battle of wills, and I thought we did a great job of winning the big points when I needed them," said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. "I think this team has really fed off the momentum we gained during our comeback last week against Michigan State, and I think we had a very good weekend of volleyball. I thought Lauren (Gibbemeyer) and Taylor (Carico) had particularly strong performances. Lauren imposed her will tonight, and had was just hammering some shots to ground and Taylor was placing it on a tee for her the entire night."
Senior setter Taylor Carico (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) finished with 43 assists, tied her highest dig total as a Gopher (16) and had four kills in her final regular-season match at the Sports Pavilion. Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) also had 14 digs, two assists and a service ace in her final regular-season home match, while senior Megan Wilson finished with eight digs and two assists.
Freshman Katherine Harms (Lakeville, Minn.) tied a career-high with eight kills and collected two blocks, while Ariana Filho (Monument, Colo.) also had eight kills. Junior outside hitter Hailey Cowles (Eden Prairie, Minn.) also had seven kills and eight digs.
Minnesota outhit Illinois .244 to .202 on the match, and had 51 kills to 42. The Golden Gophers also outblocked the Illini 6.0-to-4.0, and had 63 digs to 54 for Illinois. The win over the fifth-ranked Illini was Minnesota's highest of the season, and the Golden Gophers' highest since they defeated No. 4 California on Sept. 12, 2008 at the Sports Pavilion.
The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 13-8 lead after a kill by Harms. Illinois answered with six of the next eight points to cut the lead to 15-14. Gibbemeyer came back with consecutive kills, and the Illini committed an attack error to give Minnesota an 18-14 lead. The Golden Gophers pushed it to 19-15 with a kill by Tabitha Love (Dauphin, Manitoba).
Minnesota maintained a four-point lead at 22-20, but Illinois responded with three straight points and cut it to 22-21 on a Golden Gopher attack error. With the score at 23-22, Gibbemeyer delivered a kill to make it set point at 24-22. Kylie McCulley answered with a kill for Illinois, but Gibbemeyer put away the set with a kill to give the Golden Gophers the set 25-23.
In the first set, Minnesota outhit Illinois narrowly .200 to .195, and had 17 kills to 12 for the Illini. Gibbemeyuer paced the Golden Gophers with eight kills.
Minnesota jumped out to a 15-13 lead in the second set, and held on to the two-point lead at 17-15 after a kill by Filho. Illinois answered with a 4-0 run to take a 19-17 lead. Love and Filho came back with consecutive kills to tie it at 19. The Illini scored the next two points to move ahead 21-19, but after a service error and Cowles kill the Golden Gophers tied it at 21. Harms and Filho combined on a block to make it 22-21, and Filho followed with a kill to make it 23-21. McCulley answered with a kill, but after an attack error the Golden Gophers made it set point at 24-22. Illinois cut it to 24-23, but Cowles put away the set with a kill at 25-23.
Minnesota outhit Illinois .318 to .250 in the set, and had 19 kills to 15 for the Illini. Filho led the Golden Gophers with five kills in eight swings in the set.
In the third set, Minnesota jumped out to 13-7 lead after a service ace by Tan. Illinois answered with a 6-0 run to tie it at 13. Gibbemeyer responded with back-to-back kills to make it 15-13. The Golden Gophers stretched out to a three-point lead at 17-14, and moved it to 20-17 on a service ace by Carico. The Illini scored three of the next four points to cut it to 21-20.
Filho answered with a kill, but Laura DeBruler came back with one for Illinois to move the score to 22-21. With the score at 23-22, Gibbemeyer delivered a kill to make it match point at 24-22. Gibbemeyer and Carico combined on a block to give Minnesota the three-set victory. Gibbemeyer had six kills in nine swings and three blocks in the third set.
Illinois was led by DeBruler who had 15 kills and 10 digs, while McCulley had 14 kills and four digs. Rachel Feldman had a team-high 16 digs, while Hilary Haen finished with 34 assists and 11 digs.
The NCAA Selection Show will take place on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. on ESPNews. Minnesota will host the NCAA Regionals on Dec. 11 and 12. The NCAA Regional Semifinals matches on Friday, Dec. 11 will take place at 5 and 7 p.m. On Saturday, the NCAA Regional Final match will be at 5:30 p.m. That match can be seen live on ESPNU.