Busse leads spikers to home sweep over Michigan schools

Jeff Barthel

Saturday was a day of special performances on the national level and close to home.

One player’s effort was a heroic performance in Major League Baseball. The other was a dominant display of ability by a Minnesota volleyball player.

Josh Beckett, a 23-year-old rookie, threw a complete game at Yankee Stadium. His game-six efforts earned him most valuable player honors in a World Series victory for the Florida Marlins.

The other athlete is opposite hitter Cassie Busse, a 21-year-old from Prior Lake, Minn. She played a key role in her team’s eighth-straight victory.

“We’ve been talking about the seniors and stepping things up,” senior captain Busse said.

Busse’s efforts made a significant impact for her 25th-ranked team. Minnesota (15-7, 8-2 Big Ten) completed a weekend sweep of Michigan (14-7, 6-4) and 22nd-ranked Michigan State (13-6, 5-5).

“That was as dominant as I’ve ever seen her play,” coach Mike Hebert said. “It was a world-class night.”

The 6-foot-2-inch Busse racked up 30 kills in Minnesota’s four-game victory (27-30, 30-15, 30-15, 30-26) over Michigan State.

“Wow, Cassie was like a machine tonight,” freshman Meredith Nelson said.

Nelson’s comments are valid, considering Busse led the team in three major statistical categories – kills, hitting percentage (.591) and digs (14).

Saturday marked her first 30-kill match in a Minnesota uniform. The weekend also made some historical impacts as well.

Busse became the seventh Gophers player to record 30 kills in a single match. The last player to

accomplish the feat was former standout, Nicole Branagh.

Branagh recorded eight such performances, the last coming in a 31-kill performance in December 2000.

As for Busse, her kill total sets a new personal career high and comes on the heels of a night she had 27 kills – her career high for approximately 24 hours.

The team’s senior leader entered the weekend with a previous career high of 24.

Aside from Busse’s totals, junior outside hitter Erin Martin also had a solid match, hitting .465 and recording a season-high 23 kills.

The kill totals would not have been possible without good setting from Lindsey Taatjes.

“Lindsey had an incredible night tonight,” Busse said. “Her sets were right on the money.”

Taatjes, also a captain, came up with 60 assists Saturday night.

The Prinsburg, Minn., native was honored for her heritage in a mid-match ceremony.

Taatjes was greeted on the court by a large group of people from her hometown.

The 5-foot-10-inch junior was honored with the announcement of “Lindsey Taatjes hometown day” by a Prinsburg representative.

“Passing is a big part of our offense,” Hebert said. “The setter is usually the player who gets the most touches.”

Taatjes came into contact with the ball several times this weekend.

On Friday, she led her team by distributing 59 assists. But she also recorded 16 digs and a team-high .364 hitting percentage.

“They were teaming up a lot on Cassie,” Taatjes said. “We were able to not let them get into a groove with our outside attack.”

The mild-mannered junior uttered these words after Minnesota’s 30-26, 21-30, 30-26, 31-29 victory over Michigan on Friday night.

It was a match the Gophers won despite being out-blocked by Wolverine defenders throughout much of the night.

“This is the best blocking team we’ve ever had,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “I was proud of how our girls fought back in game four.”

Rosen’s comments came after his team battled back from a seven-point deficit – 19-12 in game four – to get the score to 29-31. However, the Wolverines fell short as the Gophers escaped with a 31-29 match-clinching win.

Michigan had 12 team blocks. Minnesota had just nine, but it was able to sustain the energy to earn the victory.

The Gophers’ win was Michigan’s first road loss in the Big Ten and Minnesota’s eighth straight win at home.