The Big Ten conference in volleyball is tough. Insanely tough. With six team in the top 11 of the AVCA coaches poll, there are no easy nights in the conference. The Minnesota Gophers found that out the hard way on Friday night in getting swept by #11 Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette. But the Gophers would bounce back, and in a very impressive way as #6 Wisconsin Badgers was swept in three sets by the Gophers Sunday night at the Pav. It was the Gophers first win over their rival in red since October of 2018.
Unlike against Purdue where Minnesota did not come out with enough energy right away and could not come back, that was not a problem in the sold out and loud Pav on Sunday. Minnesota jumped out to an early lead in the opening set before Wisconsin tied and would go ahead on a 5-1 run in the middle of the set. Minnesota would go on their run to close out the set with points from everyone on the floor including aces from Elise McGhee, Jenna Wenaas and Rachel Kilkelly, and some huge kills from a pair of freshmen in Carter Booth and McKenna Wucherer. Wucherer would lead the team with three kills in the set and four blocks from middle blocker Ellie Husemann helped push the Gophers over the top 25-21.
❌Booth the Brick Wall ❌ pic.twitter.com/wRtpc6wyDD— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) September 26, 2022
Rachel Clutch-kelly pic.twitter.com/h10wEWNIv5— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) September 26, 2022
Set two was all Minnesota. The Gophers took a 705 lead and never relinquished the lead again. Taylor Landfair came alive with seven kills for the Gophers in the set while Wucherer added three more.
The third set showed the Gophers grit. It’s a scenario where Minnesota had dropped the set on multiple occasions, but they continued to battle back and fight off every single Wisconsin chance to extend the match. Minnesota took a 9-7 lead before Wisconsin won six of the next 8 points on the back of a trio of Sarah Franklin aces to jump ahead 13-11. Minnesota pulled close but again the Badgers went on a un extending their lead to 1915 and looking like the set was under control. A kill and block by Landfair and a pair of Badger errors pulled Minnesota to with two at 21-19.
Wisconsin had four chances to win the set but the Gophers battled back every single one tying the set at 24, 25, 26, and 27 before finally taking control themselves. After a great back and forth rally Minnesota finished it off with a Melani Shaffmaster overpass for the 29-27 set win and the 3-0 match win.
A SWEEP Sunday night! pic.twitter.com/9ziYeDvwgM— Minnesota Volleyball (@GopherVBall) September 26, 2022
It was Minnesota’s first win over the Badgers in six tries, which includes last year’s Elite Eight match in Madison. Landfair led the Gophers with 17 kills on the night while Wucherer added nine and four blocks. Husemann had seven blocks her self on the night to lead the way for Minnesota.
With the split Minnesota moved up one spot in the national rankings this week where they now sit at #7. Purdue moved all the way up to #5 from #11, and Wisconsin fell from #6 to #8.
Minnesota will get a bit of a reprieve from their tough schedule this week as they host two of the bottom teams in the conference. Northwestern comes into the Pav Wednesday night for a match at 8 PM, and then Iowa comes to town Sunday afternoon for a match at 1PM. The Northwestern match will air live on BTN, while the Iowa match will stream on BTN+.