U’s match with Marquette pits Hebert against former player

If Laura Farina were on the court for Marquette, Minnesota coach Mike Hebert would have a first-hand scouting report.

Farina was an All-American while playing for Hebert at Illinois from 1987-90 and went to a pair of Final Fours.

Minnesota begins the home portion of its 2001 schedule today against Marquette at the Sports Pavilion at 7 p.m., and Farina will be on the bench as head coach for the Golden Eagles.

Marquette opened the 2001 season going 2-1 in the Idaho State Invitational last weekend.

The Golden Eagles are led by senior outside hitter Vesna Grbavac, who has led the team in kills all three matches.

Grbavac is returning after sitting out all of last year due to a shoulder injury.

“I recruited her when she was younger,” Hebert said. “She is a very good outside hitter.”

Marquette returns only three seniors but is hoping excitement will overcome the lack of experience.

“I think young teams can go one of two ways,” Farina said. “One, they can get real scared and play tentative. Two, they can see the phenomenal talent and see it as a phenomenal opportunity and just go for it. I hope the latter will occur.”

Minnesota holds a 3-0 edge in the series against Marquette, yet this marks the first meeting between the schools since 1980.

During the early stages of this season, Hebert is hoping to concentrate on his team’s performance instead of worrying about the opponent.

The Gophers are practicing to improve weaknesses which were exposed last weekend at the Jefferson Cup Invitational.

“Our problems were in the blocking phase of the game,” Hebert said. “Last year we were a tremendous blocking team. We have got a lot of new people out there. The whole system of blocking wasn’t in sync.”

Axel fighting condition

Minnesota junior Lisa Axel is suffering from a thyroid condition.

A virus is causing her thyroid to develop extra hormones which speed up Axel’s metabolism and heart rate.

“I am more tired than anything right now,” Axel said. “It doesn’t affect my playing.”

The condition is treated with radioactive iodine pills. Within the next three to four weeks, Axel is hoping the pills will kill the virus.

“I took one pill and I was radioactive for about three days,” Axel said. “I couldn’t be around anybody.”

The virus kept Axel from practicing early in the season, but she is now participating regularly and played in seven of the Gophers 10 games last weekend.

Minnesota moves up in polls

After going 2-1 in last weekend’s Jefferson Cup Invitational, the Gophers moved up one notch to 14th in the AVCA/USA Today national poll.

Minnesota’s lone loss was a 3-0 sweep at the hands of then-10th ranked Stanford, who moved up to ninth.

Nebraska remained atop the poll, followed by Long Beach State, Wisconsin and Penn State.


Nebraska winning streak ends

Top ranked Nebraska suffered its first loss since Dec. 9, 1999. Long Beach State defeated the Cornhuskers 3-1 last Saturday, ending their 36-match winning streak.

The streak ranks tied for fifth all-time in NCAA history.

“The streak means nothing to us,” Nebraska coach John Cook said after the loss. “We weren’t trying to break any records, or we wouldn’t have scheduled Long Beach State. They just got back from a trip to Europe. It was their 13th match. They are weeks ahead of us at this point. They are a very good team, and they were hungry to beat us.”

Hagen to stay in middle

After experimenting with the idea of moving All-American middle blocker Stephanie Hagen around to play two positions, Hebert has decided to leave her in the middle.

With the loss of four starters from last year’s team, Hebert was looking to take advantage of Hagen’s offense potential.

“She is just too good in the middle,” Hebert said. “We have other people who could play well there and not enough who can play in the middle.”


Brian Hall covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]