Gophers Volleyball team opens with win

Minnesota volleyball fans caught their first glimpse of the season from the duo known as “Berg-to-Branagh” Wednesday night in the home opener at the Sports Pavilion. As always, the star tandem gave the crowd something to cheer about.
Lindsey Berg led the Gophers with a remarkable 36 assists, while Nicole Branagh knocked home 24 kills, as the Gophers (3-2) swept Drake 15-7, 15-8, 15-7.
Returning home from a difficult four-game trip out West, the Gophers were happy to return to campus.
“It was great to see all the fans,” Berg said.
The Gophers gave those dedicated fans a taste of what’s to come this season by breaking open the third game with a nine-point run to take a commanding 13-3 lead, highlighted by a pair of Berg’s service aces.
Drake (1-5) answered with four straight points, but the Bulldogs ran out of gas when Minnesota wrapped up the game and match with the final two points.
Gophers coach Mike Hebert said the key to Minnesota’s success was their ball control. Hebert warned that the victory over lowly Drake didn’t go as well as it could have.
“(The score) was not a blowout,” Hebert said. “But it was control from beginning to end.”
Berg agreed with Hebert and also praised a strong team defense that didn’t allow Drake to make a serious run in the match.
“We had some good ups on defense,” Berg said.
Those “ups” on defense netted Lisa Aschenbrenner 14 digs. Drake coach Blaine Tendler was reluctant to give credit to the Gophers for the win, instead finding faults in his own team. He did admit Minnesota was a better passing team.
“They ball handled and passed better than we thought they would,” Tendler said. “They are a level above us right now.”
The game’s imperfect nature was obvious from the start. Minnesota started off with sloppy play in game one, but quickly took control by scoring eight of the final nine points to gain the 1-0 advantage.
The momentum spilled into game two, when the Gophers raced out to a 7-0 lead. Minnesota’s second game effort was led in part by Linda Shudlick, who had 11 kills and a .588 hitting percentage.
The Bulldogs fought back to cut the lead to 12-8, before the Gophers slammed the door for a two game win.
Hebert was not overly impressed with the outcome. He said his team was not at the top of its game physically, partially because of the long road trip last weekend.
“It was predictably lethargic, and perhaps an uninspired game,” Hebert said. “We can certainly play much better than that.”

John Carter covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]