With first place in the Big Ten Conference on the line, the 20th-ranked Wisconsin volleyball team could not stop 23rd-ranked Minnesota. The Golden Gophers took over sole possession of the league lead with a 30-24, 25-30, 30-28, 30-23 win over the Badgers. Minnesota (17-7, 10-2 Big Ten) extends its match-winning streak to 10 while Wisconsin (16-6, 8-3) stops a four-match winning streak.
As with the first meeting between the two teams earlier this season, Minnesota used a strong block to stop Wisconsin. The Golden Gophers had 12 team blocks, led by five from setter Lindsey Taatjes, while the Badgers had only five blocks. A trio of UW players-Jill Odenthal, Amy Bladow and Sheila Shaw-had a pair of blocks to lead the team.
"I thought that early in the match we had an opportunity, neither team was playing great, but I thought we were playing some steady ball," Head Coach Pete Waite said. "I think that the third game was critical, when we were up 28-27, a couple of service errors and that's the tough part about it."
Without a strong block, Wisconsin could not stop the offensive power of Gopher outside hitter Erin Martin, who had a match-high 25 kills. Trisha Bratford added 15 kills and Cassie Busse 14 kills as Minnesota finished with a 68-64 advantage in kills. The Gophers also hit .239 percent compared to .171 percent for the Badgers.
"We had a lot of trouble stopping Martin," Coach Waite added. "She really had one of her best nights of the year. Between that and, even defensivlely, the played a little more hard defense. That was it."
The UW finished with a 7-6 advantage in aces, led by three from Odenthal. Shields and Meierotto added two aces apiece.
Jill Maier led all defensive players with 21 digs while Zukowski added 14 digs.
The Badgers used a 4-0 rally in the middle of Game 1 to take an 18-17 lead. Behind the play of Martin, who had 10 kills in the game, the Gophers took a 27-21 lead. Wisconsin held off one Minnesota game point with a kill from Shaw but another Martin kill gave the Gophers the game.
In Game 2, the Badgers jumped out to a 9-5 lead on an ace from Odenthal. Wisconsin increased its lead to 11 (22-11) off two service aces from Meierotto but Minnesota started to rally. The Badgers had to serve for game point four times before a kill from Meierotto tied the match at one game apiece.
Wisconsin rallied from a 18-24 deficit in Game 3 to tie the period at 25 off a service ace from Odenthal. The score was tied again at 26, 27 and 28 before two UW hitting errors gave Minnesota a 2-1 game lead.
The Badgers never got back on track in Game 4, falling behind 7-10. Minnesota upped its lead to 18-11and 25-15 as Wisconsin never challenged.
"It's frustrating, we were down by nine, even coming back that's a big come back," Coach Waite continued. "It takes a lot out of you to come back from that far and then to not come away with a win in the game, it's tough. So we knew that we had to come out strong and we struggled early. It was a battle to come back."
Wisconsin will take on Iowa Saturday at the Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The first serve is set for 7 p..m.