Gophers defeat rival Wisconsin in five games

Minnesota won game five 15-11 over the Badgers, improving to 11-7 on the season.

Jeff Barthel

Minnesota volleyball accomplished a tremendous victory Sunday afternoon, led by both new players and experienced ones.

Freshman Meredith Nelson and her All-American teammate, senior Cassie Busse, led the Gophers to a five-game victory over No. 20 Wisconsin.

“I felt it tonight,” middle blocker Nelson said. “It’s my home state. I really wanted to come down and beat Wisconsin.”

Her coach concurred.

“This was huge,” coach Mike Hebert said. “It’s always a big win against Wisconsin, especially on their home court.”

The final tally for the energy-ridden Gophers was 27-30, 30-26, 30-22, 23-30, 15-11.

Busse knocked down 24 kills, leading the team to victory.

“Adrenaline was pretty much all I had,” said Busse, who played with a cold. “It helped me to pump up myself and play better.”

Busse, an outside hitter, sometimes worked with Nelson on blocking opponents’ kill attempts.

Nelson had an impressive performance Sunday afternoon. The St. Croix Falls, Wis., native was able to rack up seven kills without an error.

She also had 11 blocks in the two hour and 10 minute affair.

“She’s a nice player for a freshman,” Wisconsin coach Pete Waite said. “She contributed well today.”

Nelson attributed much of the team’s success Sunday to her elder teammate, Busse.

“Kudos to (Busse) tonight,” Nelson said. “She came out and played with willpower. She fought the elements today.”

Busse’s two kills were her team’s first two points in game five. This helped Minnesota (11-7, 4-2 Big Ten) come out with a decisive 15-11 victory that sent Gophers fans to their feet.

Approximately 40 of the 4,070 patrons who attended the match were part of a group clad in maroon and gold sitting behind the Gophers’ bench.

However, these fans were most likely not as pleased with Minnesota’s effort in game four.

Specifically, Trisha Bratford was off her game.

Bratford, who sat out practices last week with tendonitis, did play well early on but struggled later.

“Bratford was on fire tonight for most of the match until she ran out of gas in the fourth,” Hebert said.

The third game was much more pleasing from a Gophers standpoint as the team defeated the Badgers 30-22.

Minnesota showed a strong team effort on a play in which Marci Peniata ran down a ball flying toward the stands.

Peniata reached over a sign and saved the ball back into play, keeping the point alive for Busse to record one of her kills.

This point gave Minnesota a 17-16 lead, one it didn’t relinquish for the duration of game three.

In game two, the Gophers won 30-26 with the efforts of Bratford and sophomore middle blocker Jessica Byrnes.

At one point, Bratford wailed on Wisconsin (12-5, 4-2) defenders three times for attempted kills but her tries were deflected and returned by the Badgers’ defenders.

Finally, Byrnes was able to lay the final spike down to record a point and aid the Gophers in winning game two.

The opening game saw Wisconsin jump out early and the Gophers finish strong.

Wisconsin faithfuls saw their squad jump out to an early 14-6 lead, but the Gophers showed resilience in playing well enough to cut the lead to 27-28 late in the game.

Minnesota coughed up the final two points though, as Wisconsin was able to win the first game.

Overall, things are looking up for the Gophers, especially after the performances turned in by Busse and Nelson.

Nelson, who played through a cold in Iowa on Wednesday, led the team in hitting percentage at Wisconsin with a .500 clip.

“Meredith has an uncanny ability to read patterns,” Hebert said.

The team’s win over Wisconsin makes it four Big Ten wins in a row. The Badgers dropped only their second Big Ten match of the year.