U volleyball team faces Illinois & Northwestern

The Big Ten first-place Minnesota volleyball team will travel to the state of Illinois for two conference games this weekend. Minnesota will face Illinois on Friday at 7 p.m. and Northwestern on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Golden Gophers come into the week in first place in the Big Ten at 10-2, one game ahead of Wisconsin and Penn State, who are tied for second place with 9-3 records. The Gophers are ranked #20 in the country.

Illinois brings a 17-5 overall record into the week, and is tied for fourth in the Big Ten at 8-4. Illinois dropped a pair of matches at Ohio State and Penn State this past week. Northwestern heads into the week with a 5-7 Big Ten record and is 14-10 overall. The Wildcats lost to Penn State, but defeated Ohio State on the road this past week. Minnesota defeated Illinois in four games at the Sports Pavilion on Oct. 4, and knocked off Northwestern in three games on Oct. 3 at home. The Golden Gophers are 17-33-1 against Illinois in the all-time series. Minnesota is 35-13 against Northwestern and has won 20 straight matches against the Wildcats.

Minnesota moved its Big Ten winning streak to 10 matches with a victory over No. 20 Wisconsin on Oct. 31. The current streak is the second-longest conference winning streak in school history, exceeded only by last year's 11-match Big Ten winning streak. During the 10-match winning streak, the Golden Gophers have 17.00 kills per game (kpg) to opponents' 14.63. They have also outhit the opposition .261 to .164. Minnesota has averaged 18.16 digs per game (dpg) to opponents' 15.68. Probably the most marked improvement has come at the block, where the Golden Gophers are averaging 3.39 blocks per game (bpg) the last nine matches to 1.89 for their opponents. Meredith Nelson is leading the way with 1.81 blpg over her past 10 matches. During the winning streak, Cassie Busse has also averaged 5.06 kpg, 2.44 dpg and 1.06 blpg. Erin Martin has hit .340 with 4.58 kpg, while Trisha Bratford is averaging 3.71 kpg. Junior setter Lindsey Taatjes has also picked up her play, averaging 13.43 assists per game and 3.24 digs per game.

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