The 16th-ranked Gophers dropped two of the first three sets before rallying to beat No. 7 Illinis 26-24, 22-25, 22-25, 25-10, 15-6 on Saturday night at the Sports Pavilion.
Minnesota came back and hit .395 in the final two sets, including a .480 clip in the fourth set.
"I think we're really disciplined. I think that's really what separated us and the Illini in the fourth and fifth set," said the Gophers' Hannah Tapp, who had 14 kills and nine blocks. "We focused a lot on getting low and over in good spots. Blocking, we had a great plan and I think it really worked.
The Gophers (11-3, 3-1 Big Ten) had not defeated an opponent ranked so high since a victory over then-No. 5 Michigan State in October 2013.
For the match, the Gophers hit .323 to the Illini's .176 and outblocked them 16-6.
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Daly Santana led the Gophers with 26 kills in 62 attempts. Sarah Wilhite hit for .476 with 11 kills. Minnesota outblocked Illinois 16-6.
Gophers race to fourth
Liz Berkholtz's 14th-place overall finish led the Gophers women's cross-country team to fourth place in the 14-team Greater Louisville (Ky.) Classic.
The Gophers, ranked 23rd in the nation, had two top-20 finishers and scored 126 points. No. 8 Michigan, led by a 1-2 finish from Erin Finn and Shannon Osika, won with 42, followed by No. 6 Iowa State (77) and No. 19 Penn State (112).
Lipscomb (195 points) rounded out the top five.
Berkholtz was timed in 17 minutes, 15.82 seconds over 5,000 meters. Teammate Haley Johnson placed 17th in 17:18.78.
The 5K race served as a course preview for the 2015 NCAA Championship.
•Eric Colvin, a Gophers redshirt sophomore, won the TC 5K race on Saturday in 14:58.
Gophers swimmers win opener at Florida State
Samantha Harding, Brooke Zeiger, Danielle Nack and Rachel Munson won multiple individual events for the Gophers women's swimming team in a season-opening 212-88 dual victory at Florida State. Yu Zhou and Jessica Ramberg led Minnesota to a sweep of the diving events.
•The Gophers men lost 158-142 to the Seminoles. Jakub Maly, a junior from Austria, won the 200 freestyle and 400 individual medley and took second in the 200 breaststroke.
•The Gophers placed third in the 16-team MacDonald Cup men's golf tournament, hosted by Yale in New Haven, Conn. Senior Jon DuToit posted a career-best second-place finish at 1-under-par 139, after a closing 67. The tournament was shortened to 36 holes because of rain. Harvard won the competition, and Marco Iten of runner-up Stirling University (Scotland) was the top individual with a score of 138.
•The Gophers rowing team had winning boats in each of the six events it entered in the Head of the Mississippi Regatta, its only home meet of the season.