Live from Huff Hall: Minnesota 3, Illinois 0
No. 12 Minnesota completed a three-set sweep, but the No. 20 Illini didn't make it easy in the final set.
Trailing 16-9 in Set 3, Illinois fought back to tie the set at 19-19. The score was tied three more times before Minnesota closed out the Illini.
With the 25-17, 25-17, 25-23 win, the Gophers ended Illinois' three-match winning streak.
Redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks led the Illini with 14 kills. Erin Johnson had six block assists for Illnois.
Katherine Harms belted a match-high 17 kills for Minnesota, which hit .375.
Illinois hit .462 in the third set to raise its attack percentage for the match to .205.
Minnesota put Illinois in a 2-0 hole by winning the second set 25-17.
The Illini again struggled on offense, hitting .150 in 20 swings. For the match, Illinois is hitting .077.
Minnesota, which entered the week leading the nation in hitting percentage, hit .406 in Set 2 and is hitting .357 for the match.
Leading 12-10, Minnesota scored four of the next five points and then continued to keep the Illini at arm's length. After Jocelynn Birks' kill pulled Illinois within 20-16, the Gophers went on a 5-1 run to close out the set.
Katherine Harms had five more kills for Minnesota, raising her match-high total to 12. She is hitting .611 in 18 swings.
Birks leads the Illini with eight kills. Middle blocker Anna Dorn has been the UI's most effective attacker, with five kills in seven swings.
Led by outside hitter Katherine Harms' seven kills in eight swings, Minnesota won the first set 25-17.
The Illini struggled to get their attack going, committing 10 errors in 32 swings while hitting .031. In contrast, the low-error Gophers hit .292.
With Illinois leading 8-7, the Gophers ran off seven unanswered points to take a lead their would never relinquish. During the surge, Harms belted two kills and combined with middle blocker Tori Dixon on two blocks.
Redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks led the Illni with four kills but was guilty of three hitting errors. UI middle blocker Anna Dorn had three kills in four swings along with two block assists.
It's opening night of the Big Ten volleyball race for No. 20 Illinois, which is hosting No. 12 Minnesota in a match being carried live by the Big Ten Network.
The Illini (6-4) will try to build on their season-best three-match winning streak. Meanwhile, the Gophers (9-2) have won three of their last four matches, with the loss to current No. 11 Kansas State.
The visiting team has ruled in this series since 2010, with Minnesota going 2-0 at Huff Hall and Illinois winning both matches in Minneapolis. A year ago, the Gohers handed the Illini their lone home defeat of the season. Illinois went 16-1 at Huff en route to a 32-5 record and second place in the NCAA tournament.
Expect Minnesota to put Illinois' defense to a stern test. The Gophers entered the week No. 1 in the nation in hitting percentage at .343. Minnesota junior middle blocker Tori Dixon ranks second in the NCAA in hitting percentage at .490. The Gophers also have a dangerous server in Daly Santana. The freshman outside hitter is No. 2 nationally in service aces per set at 0.63.
Illinois went over .500 for the first time last weekend en route to winning the Texas Invitational. The Illini's performance was highlighted by a five-set victory against then-No. 6 Texas on the Longhorns' court.
Illini redshirt freshman Jocelynn Birks was named MVP of the tournament and further recognized on Monday by the Big Ten as both its Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week in women's volleyball. Birks produced a double-double in kills and doubles in all three of the UI's matches in Texas.
Tonight represents another opportunity for Illinois to earn a quality victory. The Illini have faced five Top 25 opponents so far -- the most among Big Ten schools -- and are 2-3 in those matches. Illinois also opened the season against Dayton, which was unranked then but is currently No. 22.
We'll update tonight's match after each set so be sure to check back.