Gophers win fourth straight with sweep of Wisconsin at Sports Pavilion

Mark Heise

Minnesota’s volleyball team continued to thrive within the friendly confines of the Sports Pavilion, knocking off No. 11 Wisconsin on Wednesday in three games.

The 17th-ranked Gophers played well on both sides of the ball and extended their home winning streak to 11 games. The streak dates back to Nov. 12 of last season, the last time Minnesota faced the Badgers.

The Gophers’ recently improved play had coach Mike Hebert talking about his confidence level.

“I don’t think there was one moment during preparation for this match where we didn’t think we could win,” he said. “Our team is just now beginning to gel and our consistency is going to make us a very good team.”

Minnesota and Wisconsin (14-5 overall, 6-3 Big Ten) played dead even to the 12-point mark in all three games, but the Gophers were able to capitalize late in each match.

Minnesota (14-5, 8-1) used the Badgers’ 15 errors in game one to its advantage, and senior outside hitter Meghan Cumpston contributed four kills and an ace as the Gophers pulled ahead late to win handily 30-20.

Midway through the second game, a sprawling, near-impossible dig from freshman defensive specialist Christine Tan turned a Wisconsin point into a quick Minnesota kill. The Gophers took a 13-12 lead and never lost it as Tan’s play was the turning point in a 30-25 win.

Cumpston recorded six kills in the game as the Gophers finished with 20 kills and a .372 hit percentage.

Junior middle blocker Jessy Jones contributed three of her 11 kills and two of her seven blocks in the second game, but gave credit to Tan for the win.

“When Christine made that crazy one-armed save, it made the statement that you can’t get anything past us,” she said. “It was clutch and really added to our momentum.”

Minnesota kept its momentum in the final game, breaking up a tie at 18 to pull ahead 24-20 at one point. The Badgers cut the lead to one at 29-28, but senior middle blocker Meredith Nelson put the game away with one of her eight kills in the match.

Cumpston led the team with 14 kills, while senior libero Malama Peniata led the defense with 19 digs. Minnesota out-blocked Wisconsin 14-5, contributing to the upset.

Despite the Gophers’ third straight upset over ranked teams, and a 12-1 record over their last 13 matches, senior outside hitter Kelly Bowman hinted that the best is yet to come.

“I think the best thing about our position right now is that we know we haven’t played our best yet,” she said. “We’ve played well but we haven’t reached our peak, and I think that gives us a lot to look forward to.”