Nov. 25, 2005
Minneapolis - Illinois held host Minnesota to just a .180 hitting percentage and got 16 kills from senior outside hitter Rachel VanMeter, but it was not enough to overcome 14 Minnesota service aces. The 17th ranked Gophers fought off Illinois in both games one and two and cruised to the win in game three en route to a 30-28, 30-26, 30-18 victory. The Illini fall to 15-15 overall, 6-13 in the Big Ten. Minnesota is now 23-7 overall, 13-6 in the conference. Illinois finishes its season Saturday night at Iowa.
The Illini have battled injury and illness all season and Friday night was no exception. Illinois Head Coach Don Hardin had to burn a time out as senior outside Rasa Virsilaite was nursing an even greater tear of her meniscus. The other back row player Beth Vrdsky played with a heavily wrapped knee. Setter Lizzie Bazzetta was coming off the flu and freshman Rachel Henderson was under the weather as well.
"If our team was healthy, I think we might be talking about upsetting a nationally-ranked team on the road or at least pushing them to the limit," Hardin said afterward. "Despite being aced as much as we were, we were still in it. My hats off to our kids. You can't always control the hand your dealt, yet we continue to go out their and fight and compete."
Vicki Brown had eight kills and hit. 375, while Virsilaite, bum knee and all, managed eight kills and nine digs. Vrdsky added 21 digs. Sarah Florian paced Minnesota with 12 kills while libero Paula Gentil tallied 24 digs. Malama Peniata had four of the Gophers' 14 aces.
Illinois controlled the first game most of the way. The Illini took a 10-9 lead and extended it to 15-11. The Gophers battled back to close to within 16-14, but Illinois went back in front 21-16. The Gophers went on an 11-4 run to take a 27-26 lead and won the game off the swing of Sarah Florian. VanMeter had six kills in the first game and Brown was the beneficiary of some good back sets from Lizzie Bazzetta. Brown had four kills in six swings. Meghan Macdonald had three kills and hit .429 in the opening game. Minnesota had four aces to the Illini's one. Neither team hit more than .100 with Illinois holding a slim .088-.087 advantage.
Both teams hit for a higher percentage in the second game with Illinois out-hitting Minnesota .310-.263, but it was not enough for Illinois, who fell victim to five more service aces. Virsilaite had seven kills and no errors for a .500 hitting percentage in the game. Minnesota turned a 15-15 game into a 25-18 advantage with a 10-3 run midway through the game.
Minnesota finally put it together in dominating the third game. The Gophers used an 11-2 run to turn a 10-10 tie into a commanding 19-12 advantage.