The No. 21 Minnesota volleyball team earned two wins over the weekend but might have suffered an even bigger loss in the process.
On Friday night, the Gophers (10-4, 4-2 Big Ten) offense was the key as they swept Indiana (30-21, 30-27, 30-20).
Saturday, the Gophers defeated Illinois in an emotional five games (30-23, 30-28, 28-30, 25-30, 15-13), but on the final play of the match senior co-captain Lindsey Berg twisted her ankle preparing to make a set.
Berg, who last weekend became the fourth Gopher to amass 5,000 career assists, still made a good set as sophomore Cassie Busse slammed home the kill and a Gophers win.
Afterward, Berg fell to the floor in obvious pain. She is scheduled have X-ray’s done Monday to determine the extent of the damage.
“She is on crutches now to avoid putting any weight on it,” volleyball coach Mike Hebert said. “You never know how bad the injury is until you get the X-ray’s back. Everybody heals differently, so we just have to wait and see.”
After winning the first two games against Illinois, Minnesota was up 27-19 in the third and looked to be putting the touches on another weekend sweep.
Then momentum shifted as the Illini went on an 11-1 run to win game three.
“I don’t know if we lost our faith in each other or our confidence,” freshman Erin Martin said. “You have to do whatever you can to pull out a win. If that means sacrificing your body or whatever you have to do it.”
Illinois went on to take the fourth game, forcing a deciding fifth.
Minnesota faced a 10-6 deficit in the fifth game before Martin had three straight kills to pull the Gophers within one. After committing a hitting error, Martin made up for it with a kill to bring the score to 11-10 Illinois.
“Mike always tells me not to be tentative at the end of games, especially in the Big Ten,” Martin said, “So I just went out there and tried to hit the ball as hard as I could.”
The kill gave the Gophers the ball back for Berg’s serve, and she served the next four points, including an ace to get to match point. Busse’s cross-court kill from the Berg set ended the match.
Martin and Busse each had a career-high 20 kills as five Gophers reached double figures. Berg finished the match with 68 assists, 16 digs and five aces.
Using a .430 hitting percentage on Friday, Minnesota outscored the Hoosiers by a total of 22 points in the three games. The Gophers committed only nine hitting errors compared to 29 for the Hoosiers.
Senior Kathy Tilson led Minnesota with a .667 hitting percentage. Tilson, Busse and senior Stephanie Hagen each had more than 10 kills.
“I don’t think our energy was as high as it has been, even away,” Berg said. “We felt calm, at ease and in control. When a match is really tense and really tight everyone gets excited. We have to bring that excitement out there even when we are playing well and dominating a game.”
Minnesota now heads to Penn State and Ohio State for two pivotal matches hoping its leader, Berg, will be on the court to help.