Spikers led by pair of factors over weekend

Oftentimes statistics can’t show the whole picture of a match. There is always more to a team than what appears on a piece of paper.
But after taking a look at Minnesota’s stats from this weekend’s volleyball matches, even a person oblivious to the game could recognize some big numbers.
Twelve service aces and 28 team blocks.
Those two numbers — both dependent on each other — stuck out and were key to the Gophers’ two-match sweep this weekend.
The success started with the aggressive serving of Minnesota — especially the jump serve of Lindsey Berg.
Going into the weekend Berg was 11th in the nation in aces per game. Her seven aces this weekend raised her average to .67 aces a game, which should bump her into the top 10.
Michigan State coach Chuck Erbe credited Berg with controlling the match on Friday night.
“If you let a kid like that get into a rhythm and get confidence it’s like a runaway freight train,” Erbe said. “We might as well have sat on the sidelines and let her serve. As soon as she misses one we take the floor again.”
Whether or not Berg serves an ace, Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said he has the confidence her jump serve will throw off the opponent.
“Whenever I see Lindsey get the ball from the ball girl I relax in my chair, because I know something good is going to happen,” Hebert said. “They go through a special little hell trying to pass that thing (after her serve). That wears on you over course of the match.”
And the serving of Berg feeds her teammates. Nicole Branagh said when the team gets on a roll, good serving can rattle a team.
With the strong serving, Minnesota’s opponents were not able to pass well on offense. That resulted in a poor attack, which allowed the Gophers to reject 28 balls.
“When you block as well as we did, that demoralizes an offensive team,” Hebert said.
Erbe said it certainly hurt his team.
“They are awesome, all-world,” Erbe said. “Probably the best blocking team in the nation.”
Statistically the Gophers were the seventh-best blocking team in the country coming into the weekend. Minnesota is now averaging 3.38 blocks per game.
The solid block showed when the 5-foot-8 Berg got into the act as well. The last of her five blocks Friday night set the school record with 20 team blocks in a three-game match.
Berg joked about her ability to get up to reject the opponents kill attempts.
“It’s motivating being one of the smallest players out there,” Berg said. “I just get my hands up there and try to touch as many balls as I can.”

John R. Carter covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]