Minnesota silences road woes with a pair of wins

After losing three consecutive matches during its last road trip, the Minnesota volleyball team had one goal in mind for the weekend: win away from home. The Gophers (22-6 overall, 12-4 Big Ten) did just that, outlasting the Badgers at Wisconsin in five sets Friday, 18-25, 25-18, 25-27, 31-29, 19-17, and cruising past a struggling Northwestern team Saturday, 25-15, 25-20, 25-12. âÄúComing into this weekend, we knew we wanted to re-establish ourselves on the road and get a road identity,âÄù senior middle blocker Kelly Schmidt said. âÄúItâÄôs especially important going into the NCAA tournament. We want to be able to go into the tournament with confidence, and know that we can be just as good on the road as we are at home. I think we proved that to ourselves this weekend.âÄù Minnesota ventured into an unfriendly environment in Wisconsin, as Badger fans attempted to make a difference in the match. âÄúIt was definitely the most hostile environment that weâÄôve ever played in, or will ever play in,âÄù senior outside hitter Katie Vatterrodt said. âÄúTo go and play at Wisconsin is one of my favorite matches of the year, because itâÄôs so intense and their fans really get into it.âÄù The Gophers were up for the challenge however, and played extremely well on the defensive side of the ball. Minnesota collected 15 blocks to slow down the Wisconsin attack, while junior libero Christine Tan and sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter consistently saved shots from the back row. âÄúOur defense was amazing,âÄù Schmidt said. âÄúWe got balls up that I never thought we could get up, and I just looked at my teammates and said, âÄòthereâÄôs no way weâÄôre losing this game.âÄô We were digging the craziest balls IâÄôve ever seen.âÄù Tan led the way with digs, collecting 23, while Dieter added 21. âÄúIf I had to name an MVP in that match for us, IâÄôd say it was Christine Tan,âÄù coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúShe was spectacular.âÄù The Gophers fell behind two sets to one, but came back in the fourth set with quality serving and continued solid defense. And instead of allowing the home team to take over in the fifth set, Minnesota managed to stay in control. âÄúIn the fifth set, weâÄôve had the tendency to back off and be less aggressive,âÄù Vatterrodt said. âÄúWeâÄôve learned from our mistakes, so going in we took a really aggressive mentality.âÄù Vatterrodt teamed with sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer for the match-winning block, finishing off the GophersâÄô best set of the match. Wisconsin (16-11, 6-9) hit .215 in the match, and .250 in the fifth set. Minnesota hit just .162, but hit at a .308 clip in the final set. Northwestern (8-19, 2-14) has been a struggling team this season, and the Gophers took advantage of that in the second match of the weekend, getting a few of the freshmen some time on the floor. Minnesota topped the Wildcats in every statistical category, hitting .326 as a team while holding Northwestern to a .038 hit percentage. âÄúIn the past weâÄôve come in to Northwestern and havenâÄôt been as focused as weâÄôve wanted to be,âÄù Schmidt said. âÄúSo we kind of wanted to make this a statement match, and let people know weâÄôre a changed team. WeâÄôre focused, we have our eyes on our goals, and we werenâÄôt going to overlook this match.âÄù