No. 10 Minnesota Defeats Illinois, 3-0
Oct. 28, 2012
Minneapolis, Minn. - Illinois volleyball traveled to the Twin Cities this afternoon to faceoff with No. 10 Minnesota. Illinois had late leads in the second and third sets, but fell 3-0 (25-19, 26-24, 25-23) to the tough Golden Gophers team. With the win, Minnesota improves to 19-4 overall, and hangs onto second place in the Big Ten at 10-2. The Orange and Blue drop to 10-12 (4-8 Big Ten) with their third-straight loss.
Annie Luhrsen returned to the starting lineup to face the powerful Golden Gophers, putting up 28 assists, six digs and two blocks, while spreading the ball around to evenly to all five attackers. For the first time all season, no individual had double-digit kills or double-digit digs in the match, but six players had three-or-more kills and six had three-or-more digs.
Liz McMahon and Jocelynn Birks led the Illini with nine kills apiece, tying Birks' career low (Pepperdine), and Ali Stark chipped in seven slams. Birks and Jennifer Beltran tied for the team lead with nine digs apiece, and Julia Conard put up seven more. Erin Johnson led the Illini blockers, assisting on five of the team's seven blocks, and McMahon added an additional four blocks and two service aces.
Katherine Harms and Tori Dixon led the Golden Gophers' offense, with 17 and 14 kills, respectively. Alexandra Palmer tabbed 39 assists, and Harms and Wittman led the back row, with 12 and 13 digs, respectively. Dana Knudsen led the blocking unit, assisting three of Minnesota's four blocks.
The Illini put up five blocks in the second set, holding the Golden Gophers to a .239 hitting percentage through the first two sets; Minnesota led the Big Ten entering the match with a .308 efficiency on the year. Nevertheless, the Golden Gophers shook off the opening pair in the final frame, hitting .421 with 20 kills and just four errors in the third to finish the match with a .303 attack percentage.
Minnesota opened the match up 2-0, but kills by Stark and McMahon and a McMahon-Johnson block tied the score at 3-3. Dixon landed a kill to put the Gophers back up 4-3, but a Santana service error tied the score at four. However, Dixon followed with back-to-back aces and a block to take an 8-4 lead, which proved sufficient to earn the first set victory. Illinois fought up to 12-9, but the Gophers returned with a 7-3 run to strike a 19-12 advantage. Illinois closed the gap to five, 20-15, on back-to-back second-hit kills by Luhrsen, but Minnesota pressed up to set point, 24-18. A Stark kill delayed it, but a service error finished off the set, 25-19, for Minnesota.
The Illini kept the Gophers away from an early run in the second set, as the score sat tied on every point from 4-4 to 12-12, until Illinois put together a streak to take a 17-13 lead helped by a pair of Illini blocks. Minnesota pushed back, coming within one, 19-18, but a Beltran ace kept Illinois on top. Dixon made it 21-20, but a Hauer service error stopped the tie again. However, an Illini service error and a Minnesota block finally allowed the Golden Gophers to tie the score at 23, and a Johnson error made it set-point Minnesota, 24-23. Johnson came right back with a kill to tie it at 24, but a Harms kill and a Wittman ace sealed the comeback for Minnesota with a 26-24 victory in set two.
The Golden Gophers opened the third frame with a 3-0 lead, but a pair of errors by Santana allowed the Illini to tie the score at three. The Golden Gophers pushed back in front 5-3 on a Harms kill, and soon extended their lead to 13-8. The Illini did not back down, pulling within one, 15-14, but a service error kept the Orange and Blue from tying the score. Stark ripped a kill to make it 16-15, but a Wittman kill avoided the tie again. However, Birks struck a kill on the next play, and Jackie Wolfe followed with an ace to tie it at 17, and a Lurhsen kill on the second hit pushed Illinois out in front for the first time, 18-17. Harms tied the score at 18, but Birk regained the Illini lead with a kill. Knudsen tied it again, but Birks lifted Illinois back ahead 20-19. Another Harms kill knotted the score at 20, but a McMahon kill retook the Illini lead, 21-20. Birks overhit the next attack out of bounds to tie the score, and a Santana ace gave Minnesota back the lead, 22-21. Santana gave one back with a service error to tie it at 22, but that would be the final Illinois point of the afternoon, as the Golden Gophers landed three-straight kills to complete the sweep with a 25-22 third-set win.
The Illini return home on Wednesday night to host Purdue live on the Big Ten Network. Don't forget your costumes, as it will be Halloween at Huff, with `spooktacular' activities starting at 6 p.m. The match is slated to being at 7 p.m. with Mike Wolfe and Liz Tortorello-Nelson on air for BTN.