U’s DeDecker sets kills record in surprising loss

Tim Klobuchar

Fittingly, Katrien DeDecker chose Katrien DeDecker Night at the Sports Pavilion to break the school and Big Ten record for career kills.
But what was more important for DeDecker and the rest of the Gophers was a victory — something they didn’t get Friday against Michigan.
The three-game sweep suffered by the Gophers was just as shocking as their 3-0 victory over No. 13 Wisconsin just two days earlier. The Wolverines came into the match with a 4-8 Big Ten record and just a 1-5 mark on the road.
Minnesota, meanwhile, had won four matches in a row and 10 of its last 12. The Gophers, 19-8 overall and 10-4 in the Big Ten, fell into a fourth-place tie with Wisconsin after the loss.
“Obviously, that wasn’t a sterling performance,” Gophers coach Mike Hebert said. “To those watching, it must have looked like we were playing in 8 feet of water. Those of us who have been in the game for a long time can’t explain it.”
The 2,186 fans at the Pavilion were given DeDecker trading cards that included a photo of her and year-by-year highlights of her career. She added her greatest accomplishment during Friday’s second game.
With Minnesota down 7-2, DeDecker took a set from Becky Bauer and spiked the ball off a Michigan player and out of bounds for a side out. That was DeDecker’s 2,141st kill of her career, breaking former Gopher Andrea Gonzales’ record, set from 1985-88. The match was stopped momentarily, and DeDecker was given the ball amid a standing ovation.
Naturally, DeDecker’s feat was anticlimactic considering the circumstances. When asked if she was happy about the record, she said, “Yeah kind of. I’m happy it’s over and done with. Now I can just focus on the rest of the season. It’s a done deal.”
The entire Gophers team was off its game from Wednesday night, including DeDecker. Minnesota committed 28 hitting errors, including 12 by DeDecker.
“It was just the style of hitting errors,” Mike Hebert said of his team’s errant attempts, many of which went into the net. “We didn’t look like we had the bounce to our step.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen Katrien get that frustrated. She may not admit it, but the record may have been a bit of a distraction. It looked like she was really pressing in the second half of the match. We’re very happy she got the record, but we’re also happy it’s over,” he added.
DeDecker’s record was supposed to perfectly accompany yet another Gophers victory; instead it was overshadowed by Michigan’s surprising dominance. After breaking an 11-11 tie in the first game and going on to win 15-12, the Wolverines were never seriously threatened again.
Michigan throttled the Gophers in game two, 15-7, and controlled most of the third game as well. The visitors led 14-6 before a Minnesota rally cut the gap to 14-10. Minnesota’s surge ended appropriately enough when two Gophers let a pass drop to the floor untouched, giving the Wolverines match point.
DeDecker admitted that some of the Gophers’ grit was left on the Pavilion court after Wednesday’s upset of Wisconsin.
“I think we wasted a lot of energy against Wisconsin,” DeDecker said. “We said we were ready, but we just were not aggressive enough. We didn’t have the same fire.”
Of course, Michigan deserves plenty of credit for making Minnesota look bad. The Gophers sat in the stands in Ann Arbor, Mich., earlier this year and watched the Wolverines sweep Wisconsin, so Minnesota wasn’t expecting a pushover.
“Michigan played a fabulous match,” Hebert said. “I was hoping for them to let us back into the match to give us the illusion we were in it, but it didn’t happen.”
Hebert also said the loss could be chalked up to the unpredictability of sports, citing a quote from Lou Henson, the former men’s basketball coach at Illinois, where Hebert worked for the last 13 years.
“He said, `In a 30-game season, you’re going to play five great games, five dogs, and about ten somewhere in between,'” Hebert said. “Tonight we laid one of our eggs. This is athletics, and this is the way it works sometimes.”

MATCH SUMMARY
Michigan 15 15 15 — 3
Gophers 12 7 10 — 0

Leaders — Kills: DeDecker 13, Baynes 12, Passer 10. Digs: Pearman 18, DeDecker 11, Passer 10. Assists: Bauer 39.
T — 1:22. A — 2,186.