Volleyball’s hectic early season schedule helps solidify lineup

by Brian Hall

Heading into this weekend’s action Minnesota volleyball coach Mike Hebert once again plans to concentrate on his teams strengths and weaknesses more than playing to his opponent’s.

“That will be true throughout the season,” Hebert said. “Unless we see teams doing something unorthodox on the tape, most of our attention will be on our side.”

The Gophers travel to San Diego, Calif., this weekend to play four matches in the University of San Diego Invitational.

Friday, Minnesota plays San Jose State and Seton Hall followed by matches with Brown and San Diego on Saturday.

Playing five matches in the span of six days gives Hebert ample opportunity to tinker with his underclassman-laden roster.

“We might make a couple of adjustments,” Hebert said. “Hopefully having four matches will give us the room to do more switching and the opportunity to get some different people in there.”

Aside from the Gophers, the premier team in the invitational is San Jose State. The Spartans have a record of 3-1, after being swept by No. 24 Santa Clara Tuesday, and winning the Oregon State Showcase last weekend.

San Jose State has garnered some attention in the national poll, yet have not received enough votes to appear into the top 25.

“I think we are a good defensive team,” Spartans coach Craig Choate said. “Against Minnesota it will be the big power game versus the small ball control game.”

San Jose State returns five starters from last year’s team which lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Despite the ability to field a strong team, Choate does see certain mismatches against the Gophers.

“Their huge,” Choate said. “We are a bunch of midgets compared to them.”

While the Gophers have seven players six feet or taller on their roster, the Spartans have only two.

Senior setter Savannah Smith, won Western Athletic Conference player of the week honors for her performance last weekend. Smith had 152 assists and hit .478 to go along with 42 digs, five blocks and two service aces in the three matches.

Seton Hall returns all six starters from last season. Minnesota defeated the Pirates in last year’s Diet Coke Classic at the Sports Pavilion.

On Saturday, the Gophers square off against Brown, who also returns every starter from last year’s squad, and host team, San Diego.

While San Diego carries a 2-1 record into the invitational, Brown will see its first action of the year.

Hebert sees the intensive early season schedule not as a burden, but an advantage and hopes to get a true feel for his team before it heads into conference play on Sept. 19.

 

Brian Hall covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]