Spikers slam by Oregon rivals

The Minnesota volleyball team’s journey along the Oregon Trail was an overpowering one this weekend, but in a good way. The Gophers swept all three matches to easily win the Nike Invitational.
The Gophers (6-2), who dominated Alabama, Cal State-Fullerton and Oregon, are officially on a roll. Minnesota has won four matches in a row.
Coach Mike Hebert was considerably pleased with the way his team played, especially in the final two matches against Cal State-Fullerton and Oregon.
Namely, Minnesota didn’t repeat its past mistakes. Once they had a commanding lead, the Gophers did not beat themselves.
“We limited our hitting errors, which is something we’ve been focusing on,” Hebert said.
Hebert was impressed with the way the Gophers overcame a tough-serving Oregon (6-1) team.
“We have not been served like that by any opponent so far this season,” Hebert said. “But we hit the ball very well and blocked very well.”
Oregon coach Cathy Nelson said it was clear Minnesota was a better team than the Ducks.
“They are by far the best team we have played so far,” Nelson said. “I hoped we would rise to the challenge, but we didn’t.
“We just didn’t do the little things that it was going to take to beat a team like that,” Nelson added.
The Gophers win streak comes at the tail end of a busy two-week stretch that outside hitter Lisa Aschenbrenner says has not slowed the Gophers down.
“Knowing we can go on the road after flying through all these time zones, starting school, moving in and everything, and still being able to come here and win all three matches well,” Aschenbrenner said, “it feels really good and we feel really confident.”
Aschenbrenner, who was named to the all-tournament team with teammates Nicole Branagh and Lindsey Berg, said team chemistry was evident in Oregon.
“You can have the most talented athletes in the world on the team,” Aschenbrenner said, “but if there is no chemistry, it’s just not going to work.
“I think everyone on the team compliments each other. Everyone has a role. I don’t think we have any weak links. Everyone is working together as a team.”
The Gophers beat Alabama (1-4) 15-8, 15-5, 15-12 to open the tournament. Minnesota then crushed Cal State-Fullerton (2-4) 15-2, 15-5, 15-2, before ending the weekend by defeating Oregon 15-10, 15-4, 15-6.
Aschenbrenner had a total of 25 kills this weekend, including nine against Cal State-Fullerton. Branagh was her usual self with 52 kills in the three matches, while Berg added 110 assists.

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