Volleyball sweeps Wisconsin to earn 10th conference win

Tori Dixon had 14 kills and no errors as the Gophers overcame the scrappy Badgers.

Charlie Armitz

It was a back-and-forth volleyball border battle between Minnesota and Wisconsin on Wednesday night at the Sports Pavilion.

In the end, the pendulum swung the Gophers’ way.

No. 19 Minnesota defeated the unranked Badgers in straight sets to improve to 10-9 in the Big Ten (17-11 overall).

The Gophers had a five-point lead in all three sets, but Wisconsin (16-15, 8-11 Big Ten) made a run in each of them, forcing Minnesota to use timeouts and regroup before closing the deal.

The Badgers trailed 17-22 in the third set when they went on a 6-0 run to take a one-point lead. Wisconsin saved a pair of set points and had a set point of its own — then the Gophers closed the match by winning three consecutive points.

“I think it’s just bearing down,” Minnesota interim head coach Laura Bush said of the team’s resilience. “The players knew the scouting report, we had an idea about what they would run coming out of timeouts, we knew what we wanted to run, and the players executed what needed to be done for us to get a point.”

Senior outside hitter Hailey Cowles had two of her five kills in the third set — one on Wisconsin’s set point, and one to win the match. She added a team-high 19 digs.

“I thought Hailey Cowles played excellent defense tonight,” Bush said. “She was really solid back on the end line.”

Tori Dixon had 14 kills in 21 attempts with no errors in the 25-21, 25-21, 28-26 win. She has hit her stride of late, posting 53 kills in the last four matches while hitting .425.

“Me and [setter Mia Tabberson] have a good connection,” Dixon said. “It definitely helps everything run a lot smoother.”

Tabberson had 45 assists in her second start since replacing freshman setter Kellie McNeil. The junior has made an immediate impact with her ability to set Dixon and the team’s other middle blocker, Ariana Filho.

“It’s awesome [to get the middles involved],” sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wittman said. “It takes the load off of us, and then our offense is spread, and it makes it harder for the other team.”

Wittman had 14 kills and seven errors while hitting .146. She has now posted 10 or more kills in 23 consecutive matches.

Minnesota plays its regular-season finale Friday night against Indiana (9-22, 1-18 Big Ten) at the Sports Pavilion.