Berg sets stage for Minnesota sweep of Purdue

by Brian Hall

Opening week of the Big Ten volleyball season saw host teams post a record of 9-2.

Minnesota was the only team which survived outside its home arena.

The No. 17 Gophers (8-2, 2-0 in the Big Ten) took two road conference games in the past week, as they swept Purdue on Saturday to follow up Wednesday’s 3-0 victory at Iowa.

“I am very happy to get away with two wins,” coach Mike Hebert said. “We were able to go into two notorious places to play and have this type of performance.”

Minnesota defeated the Boilermakers in three games (30-21, 30-24, and 30-24) behind a season high .479 hitting percentage.

Setter Lindsey Berg dished out 46 assists to help four of her teammates register double figures in kills.

Three of the four – senior Kathy Tilson, senior Stephanie Hagen and sophomore Bethany Brafford – had career highs in hitting percentage.

“Berg had an outstanding night,” Hebert said. “Whenever a team hits for a high percentage, the finger gets pointed at the setter and she deserves it. She ran the offense very well.”

In the opening game of the match, Hagen led Minnesota’s offense with six kills in seven attempts as the Gophers held a .633 to .217 hitting advantage over Purdue.

“Our passing was pretty good,” Hagen said. “Plus, Lindsey was great. She was able to spread the ball around, and their blockers couldn’t double team us.”

Purdue jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead in the second game, but Minnesota stayed close, finishing the game by scoring 10 of the last 14 points.

“We had moments that we didn’t play well,” Hagen said. “But we just looked at each other and said, `Lets go.’ We knew we were going to win, but we needed to take care of things.”

Tilson led the team in the second game with five kills in five attempts as the Gophers continued their hot hitting with a .517 percentage.

“We passed well as a team,” Tilson said. “Lindsey moved the ball around and our sets to the middle were so quick they couldn’t defend them. That forced them to leave the middle blocker in the middle so our outsides were always hitting against one blocker.”

Hebert said he understands an All-Big Ten setter and a group of competent hitters make passing the key to the Gophers offense.

“When you pass well in this system, have good ball handling and big hitters like we do, you should have good numbers,” Hebert said.

Berg served three aces to open the third game, and Minnesota scored seven of the final eight points to earn the sweep.

Berg’s impressive night left her just 14 assists shy of 5,000 for her career. She will likely break the mark on Friday against Michigan State and become only the fourth Gopher – and 12th Big Ten player – in history to reach the mark.

Minnesota travels to the state of Michigan next weekend and faces the Spartans on Friday and the Wolverines on Saturday.

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