Gophers hoping to make quick work of Iowa before heading to Michigan

The state of Michigan hasnâÄôt been particularly friendly to the University of Minnesota volleyball team over the past two years. In the last three matches at Michigan and Michigan State, the Gophers are winless. âÄúItâÄôs like a love/hate thing,âÄù sophomore defensive specialist Hailey Cowles said. âÄúRight now we donâÄôt like Michigan.âÄù Minnesota (24-6 overall, 14-4 Big Ten) will try to repair its relationship with the state this week, traveling to play at Michigan State on Saturday at 5:30 p.m., following a midweek trip to play Iowa on Wednesday at 7 p.m. âÄúAfter the loss to Michigan University this year, we arenâÄôt going to lose there again,âÄù sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer said. âÄúIâÄôm pretty sure everyone has confidence in the fact that we can win, and we arenâÄôt going to let anything like that get to our heads.âÄù Before the Gophers can try to break the bad luck streak in Michigan, Minnesota will have to face Iowa, a team that has its own streak to worry about. After starting the Big Ten season with a 5-5 record, the Hawkeyes (14-16, 6-12) have lost 7-of-8, and appear to be limping towards the finish of the season. Iowa was swept in its last three matches, losing in three sets to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan, and Gibbemeyer said the Gophers have a similar goal. âÄúWe just want to get in and out, make it quick,âÄù she said. âÄúThey are a much better team than in the past, but we want to finish strong against them.âÄù Following the trip to Iowa, the Gophers will break for Thanksgiving before practicing Friday and leaving for Michigan State. Minnesota topped the Spartans (14-15, 6-12) earlier this season in four sets, as sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter led the team with 19 kills and a 0.357 hit percentage. But with Dieter out with an ankle sprain, the Gophers will have to rely on other hitters, most notably Cowles, senior Katie Vatterrodt and junior Pamela Luiz. âÄúWeâÄôre using different combinations of those three hitters to pick up the slack that BrookâÄôs absence leaves,âÄù coach Mike Hebert sa id. âÄúBut weâÄôre not really concerned about it because I thought they did a great job against Michigan, and held off Ohio StateâÄôs surge.âÄù âÄúThe biggest concern isnâÄôt necessarily offense as it is blocking. We have to figure out ways to avoid getting caught like we did with Ohio State, where they were hitting over Hailey.âÄù At 5âÄô10âÄù, Cowles is a little undersized for playing at outside hitter, but in the two matches last weekend, she filled in well for the Gophers, collecting 10 kills and a solo block against the Wolverines. With six consecutive wins already in the books, Minnesota could finish the regular season on a high note, collecting an eight-game winning streak heading into the NCAA tournament. âÄúOur goal is to win both matches,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúIf we do that, I think we assure ourselves of a top 16 seed for the tournament.âÄù