Pair of wins help Gophers regain confidence

by Aleutian Calabay

It wasnâÄôt always pretty, but the GophersâÄô wins over Indiana and Purdue were exactly what they needed. Minnesota first took down the Hoosiers 3-0 on Friday by scores of 25-15, 25-13 and 25-15. The Gophers followed that up with another straight sets victory over Purdue, 25-22, 25-22 and 25-17 . No. 12 Minnesota had been reeling since back-to-back three-set losses to No. 1 Penn State and Ohio State, making the timing of this weekendâÄôs wins all that more pivotal to the GophersâÄô confidence moving forward. âÄúItâÄôs time for our group to push a little bit harder on the practice floor and be able to take a more efficient game to the court,âÄù Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúI thought we did that [this weekend]. Overall if you look at both matches and add them together, I thought we accomplished that.âÄù Practice clearly paid off for the Gophers this week as they came out against Indiana with a lot of focus and energy. The Gophers used a simple see ball, hit ball game plan that got their offense clicking, as they out-hit the Hoosiers 0.435 to 0.091. Minnesota also out-killed Indiana 47-30. The Gophers came out to dominate and never let up. The match against Purdue, on the other hand, was a very different story. The Gophers came out cold from the start, as they had a hard time getting kills to fall. The Gophers suddenly began clicking late in the first set, erasing a 21-16 deficit as they won nine of 10 points to steal the first set. Momentum didnâÄôt carry through for Minnesota as they once again came out cold in the second set and fell behind 8-4. But the Gophers found their scoring groove and began chipping away at the Boilermakers, eventually taking a 19-18 lead off a smashing kill by freshman Tabitha Love , and then finishing off the set with kills by freshman Katherine Harms and junior Hailey Cowles . FridayâÄôs dominant Gophers team showed up in the third set against Purdue. Minnesota looked like an offensive machine, nailing kill after kill and quickly building an 11-5 lead, never looking back as they cruised to end of the match. The match against Purdue was far from one of the cleanest wins the Gophers have had, but proving they can come from behind and win sets even when everything is not clicking shows the teamâÄôs resolve to win. Minnesota had a number of players step up and contribute over the weekend. None led more than Cowles, Brook DieterâÄôs replacement at outside hitter, as she led the team with 22 total kills between the two matches. CowlesâÄôs 5-foot-10-inch height doesnâÄôt allow her to be a smashing force at the net, but she manages to be a solid source of offense by making her shots at various heights and angles to continually keep defenses guessing. Also playing well for the Gophers was junior Lauren Gibbemeyer , who had 19 total kills and seven blocks. Freshmen are also continuing to up their play. Love finished with 16 kills and Katherine Harms chipped in nine kills. A lot of questions still surround this Gophers team, namely their ability to win consistently on the road, but at the very least their solid wins this weekend show that when the Gophers are clicking, they can win in almost any situation. âÄúI think weâÄôre all very confident in our team,âÄù Cowles said. âÄúWe know that going into the next couple of weekends weâÄôre away, which is very hard in the Big Ten. We know we have to keep our focus in practice like we did last week, even pick it up a little bit so we can play consistently good like we did on Friday. âÄúWe are very confident in our team and we know we can go far in the tournament. We just have to know that we have to work hard in practice to achieve our goals.âÄù MinnesotaâÄôs road trip begins next weekend as they face Iowa on Friday at 7 p.m. and then move on to Wisconsin on Sunday at 1 p.m.