Spikers move up to No. 6, prepare for tough road matches

by Ben Goessling

Just in time for what might be its biggest road match of the year, Minnesota’s volleyball team is finally on the mend.

Libero Paula Gentil, plagued for several weeks by a sprained medial collateral ligament in her right knee, is nearing full strength, according to head coach Mike Hebert.

“She’s still having a little trouble pushing to her left, but she is returning to form,” Hebert said.

The Gophers had Monday and Tuesday off last week, and reaped the benefits in sweeps of then-No. 21 Michigan State and unranked Michigan.

Several players used the time off to recover from minor injuries, and Hebert said the team will continue to lighten its practice load in anticipation of this weekend’s road trips to Northwestern and No. 14 Wisconsin.

Gophers move to sixth

minnesota rose two spots to sixth in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association poll, marking its second-highest ranking ever.

The Gophers were ranked fifth from Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, 2000.

Minnesota (15-2, 2-0 Big Ten) is the highest-ranked team in the conference, followed by ninth-ranked Penn State, No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 16 Ohio State and No. 22 Michigan State.

Busse honored

opposite hitter Cassie Busse was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for the second time this season Monday.

Setter Lindsey Vander Well captured the award Sept. 16, giving the Gophers three of the conference’s six selections this year.

Busse averaged 5.17 kills per game and hit .383 last weekend.

Buckeyes, Badgers reeling

ohio State, picked by coaches to win the conference, opened Big Ten play with a 0-2 road trip last weekend, including a four-game loss to Indiana, tabbed ninth in the conference preseason poll.

Defending league champion Wisconsin also struggled over the weekend, starting the conference schedule 1-1 after losing a four-game match to Illinois Saturday night.

Meanwhile, the Gophers, winners of eight straight games, are one of three 2-0 teams in the Big Ten.

Is it time to give Minnesota the favorite’s role yet?

“We’ll know after this weekend,” Hebert said. “We learned we can compete at home, but we need to see if we can win on the road.”

Minnesota hasn’t won at Wisconsin since 1995, the season before Hebert began coaching.

And Northwestern, once considered to be the doormat of the conference, is 2-0 after wins last weekend over Illinois and Purdue.

FSN to show live match

the Gophers’ match against Wisconsin Friday night will be televised live by Fox Sports Net North. The broadcast marks the third television appearance for the Gophers this season.

It is likely the network will also run a live broadcast of Minnesota’s second match against the Badgers on Nov. 10 at the Sports Pavilion.

Ben Goessling covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]