7-match winning streak halted by Minnesota

Brian Stensaas

Penn State volleyball: The Tribe has spoken — the Minnesota Tribe, to be exact.
You have been voted off Immortality Island.
The streak was going to end sometime. Friday night was sometime.
After Penn State ran off an astounding 87 straight match victories at home — an NCAA record — No. 6 Minnesota (15-0, 4-0 in the Big Ten) came into Rec Hall and did what no team has done since 1995. They defeated the 11th-ranked Lions (12-4, 1-3) in four games, 13-15, 15-12, 15-12, 15-11.
For Minnesota, the win did more than remove the Rec Hall monkey off the backs of the rest of the volleyball world. The victory over the Lions was the 14th straight for Minnesota, which tied a school record.
Minnesota and Ohio State are the only two teams still undefeated in the Big Ten after the second week.
“This is something I’ve been waiting for a while,” Nicole Branagh told WDGY Radio after the match. “This is a sweet victory, great for this program.”
The onslaught continued and the record was broken Saturday night with a 15-9, 15-12, 15-8 win at Indiana (10-4, 1-3), avenging last season’s loss to the Hoosiers in Bloomington.
Minnesota’s 15-game winning streak gives them the longest current unbeaten stretch in Division I.
“We were very motivated to win at Penn State,” coach Mike Hebert said. “We trusted in the things we needed to do.”
Listed first among those things was to contain Penn State’s key players–Katie Schumacher and Mishka Levy.
While both finished the match with 17 kills, the two totaled 100 attempts and were both held under a .200 hitting percentage.
In order to succeed in nullifying the duo, the Gophers had to run the risk of Penn State figuring out their changed attack. The Lions didn’t, and Minnesota took the victory.
Though the match might be viewed as just another in the streak, it was a detoured route from the usual path. In all four games, the team building an early lead wound up losing.
“They were very patient and handled the adversity of getting down,” Hebert said of the final three games. “They showed emotional stability and didn’t get rattled.”
Branagh led the team with a season-high 28 kills while Yvonne VanOort led the defense with 17 digs. But it was Stephanie Hagen’s weekend.
Hagen compiled 43 kills in the two matches, finished with a .439 hitting percentage and has been nominated for Big Ten player of the week.
For Minnesota, already at its highest ranking in history, the two wins paired with a No. 5 UCLA loss could bump the team into the national top five poll released Monday.

Brian Stensaas covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]