U holds on to No. 25

by Sarah Mitchell

Despite suffering three consecutive defeats, including a pair of 3-0 road losses to Michigan and Michigan State over the weekend, Minnesota (12-5 overall, 2-4 in the Big Ten) remained ranked in this week’s USA Today/AVCA poll. The Gophers volleyball team slipped from the 22nd spot to the 25th.
Six Big Ten teams are ranked — Penn State (2), Wisconsin (6), Illinois (18), Ohio State (21), Michigan State (22) — with Indiana and Michigan receiving votes.
The poll, which factors in a team’s record and the toughness of its schedule, was questioned by some Gophers players.
Ohio State’s spot in the poll has baffled the Gophers for weeks. The Buckeyes, a team the Gophers beat at home 3-1, have consistently ranked higher than Minnesota although they own a poorer record. Ohio State 9-6 record earned them a 21st ranking, suggesting that other factors might be involved.
“A lot of it has to do with the name of the school,” Glaser said.
Indiana, on the other hand, might be one of the neglected teams. The Hoosiers are 10-5 on the season, having lost two matches this past week. But with a 10-3 record a week ago, Indiana barely made the Oct. 5 poll, clinging to the 24th spot.
“They were finally ranked,” Baxter said of Indiana. “They have been good all season long, but before last week they weren’t given the time of day.”
The jury speaks
A verdict has been reached regarding the mysterious case of “How did the Gophers volleyball team get swept this weekend by two teams with worse records?”
Jurors and middle blockers Heather Baxter and Erica Glaser deliberated and found a loss of confidence at fault for Minnesota’s bad trip to Michigan.
“It’s hard to say how we lost because we didn’t play that bad,” Glaser said initially. “Those teams really had to win and they were ready to do anything, but we didn’t do anything incredibly wrong.”
Studying all of the evidence left Baxter puzzled, too.
“If you look at the statistics, you wouldn’t have thought we lost at all,” Baxter said. “I just don’t know what went wrong.”
Minnesota recorded 12 blocks and 46 kills against the Spartans, while smashing 56 kills against the Wolverines. Freshman middle blocker Stephanie Hagen recorded a .550 hitting percentage against Michigan, and freshman outside hitter Yvonne Wichert nailed 14 kills on both nights.
Glaser finally identified the culprit — and fatigue and a mid-season slump were thrown off the suspect list.
“It’s a loss of confidence, I guess,” Glaser said. “We are unsure of where we stand and don’t believe that we can play, that we are that good.”
Rodents infest mansion
After a rough stretch of games, it might be expected that Minnesota would spend longer hours in the gym this week. However, Tuesday’s practice will be brief because the team has a more prominent event to attend — dinner at the governor’s house.
Gov. Arne Carlson sent what Glaser called “fancy dinner invitations” to members of Minnesota’s volleyball, baseball and men’s hockey teams. The reason for Carlson’s act of kindness remains unknown.
“I think he’s a volleyball fan and we are doing well this season,” Glaser said.