Gophers defeat Wisconsin in 5 sets

Minnesota won its Big Ten-leading fourth five-set match on the road.

Charlie Armitz

The No. 14 Gophers volleyball team continued its clutch road play Wednesday with a 22-25, 25-23, 25-18, 21-25, 15-10 win over unranked Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.

The win was MinnesotaâÄôs third consecutive on the road, its fifth overall on the road, and its fifth in conference.

It was also the GophersâÄô fourth road victory in a five-set match âÄî the most of any Big Ten school.

âÄúThe team showed courage and mental toughness in a place thatâÄôs tough to play in,âÄù Minnesota interim head coach Laura Bush said. âÄúThis was a border battle match that has significance to Minnesota, and weâÄôre happy that weâÄôre able to bring home the win.âÄù

Four Minnesota players had double-digit kill totals in the win: Ashley Wittman (21), Tori Dixon (15), Ariana Filho (14) and Katherine Harms (13).

Wittman, who scored five of MinnesotaâÄôs last six points, has now posted at least 10 kills in 13 consecutive matches, and in 17 of the GophersâÄô 18 matches in 2011.

Harms has recorded 10 or more kills in five consecutive matches. Her playing time has skyrocketed since Minnesota lost to Ohio State and Penn State on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

But it was the play of MinnesotaâÄôs middle blockers âÄî Dixon and Filho âÄî that kept the Gophers competitive throughout the match. The two combined to hit .364 with only five attack errors. 

âÄúI just got to the point where I was like, âÄòenough is enoughâÄô,âÄù Filho said. âÄúI think the team did that together. I just had to keep talking, keep being loud for my team.âÄù

Minnesota and Wisconsin traded points in the fifth set until Minnesota scored six straight to take a 13-9 lead. Wittman had three kills during that stretch, while Dixon had one kill and Hailey Cowles served an ace.

âÄúI just knew that my team needed me,âÄù Wittman said. âÄúI got those first two kills to bring us into double digits, and then I knew that I just needed to finish it out.âÄù

At 5-4, the Gophers (12-6 overall) are tied with Michigan State for fifth place in the Big Ten.

The four teams ahead of them âÄî Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State and Purdue âÄî all won Wednesday night.

Minnesota travels to play the No. 12 Boilermakers on Saturday âÄî a team that is expected to provide a tougher test.

The Boilermakers defeated Indiana, the only winless team in Big Ten play, in five sets at home Wednesday.