Gophers win, lose weekend road trip

Robert Mews

Minnesota’s volleyball team needed a win this weekend to keep its momentum rolling. It was able to do that while making history.

The 19th-ranked Gophers (22-7, 12-6 Big Ten) beat No. 17 Ohio State (19-8, 12-6 Big Ten) on Saturday in three games, 30-19,30-25, 30-23 ” that marks the first time in Minnesota history that it has beaten the Buckeyes on the road in three games. That helped the Gophers overcome their three-game Friday loss at No. 2 Penn State (27-2, 18-0 Big Ten).

One thing coach Mike Hebert said he wanted the team to accomplish against Ohio State was a fast start. The Gophers have been notorious this season for starting matches slowly and usually have to play catch-up for most of their matches.

“Tonight, we talked a lot about playing strong from the first point,” Hebert said.

Sophomore middle blocker Jessy Jones said the team wanted to start fast because of what happened last time against Ohio State at the Sports Pavilion.

On Oct. 21, the Buckeyes beat Minnesota in straight games.

“We wanted vengeance on Ohio State,” Jones said.

Jones said the team felt like it was embarrassed at home against the Buckeyes.

Jones helped the Gophers on the defensive side by leading the way with 4.5 blocks. As a team, Minnesota outblocked the Buckeyes 13-4.

“That’s just an astronomical separation in blocks,” Hebert said.

That may be “astronomical” in part because the Gophers usually are the team getting out blocked in matches. In fact, Minnesota has only lost two matches all season when out blocking its opponent.

However, Jones said the blocks can be attributed to the coaches plan to stop the Buckeyes quick offense.

“We were just a step a head of them the whole night,” Jones said. “And, it showed because (associate coach Dave Boos’) coaching plan was just perfect.”

The Gophers also outhit the Buckeyes on the night .248 to .017. Sophomore outside hitter Sarah Florian hit for .333 percent in the match and led the way for Minnesota with 14 kills.

“I was pumped, because I felt like I was close to home and had friends there,” Florian said.

Florian, who grew up in Holland, Ohio, said her older sister attends Ohio State and that she teased Sarah a little before the match.

“She was like, “I don’t know who to cheer for,’ and I’m like, “I don’t think that should be a question,’ ” Florian said. “It was fun.”

However, the Gophers didn’t have too much fun against Penn State on Friday.

Penn State, for the second time this season, beat Minnesota this time, 30-14, 30-24, 30-21.

The Gophers committed 36 hitting errors and hit for a dismal negative .043 hitting percentage in the match.

“We couldn’t find the court,” Hebert said.

Yet, Hebert said he felt the team responded better this time around against the Nittany Lions.

“We knew what we were doing this time,” Hebert said. “Penn State is just in a different class in the Big Ten right now, or in the nation, really.”

Penn State is in a different class. The Lions have already rapped up a Big Ten title, while the Gophers sit in second place.

“That would be awesome to be able to finish second,” Hebert said about finishing the season strong. “That would certainly be a motivator for us.”