U volleyball team gets R and R after road trip

Tim Klobuchar

The Gophers volleyball team took a well-deserved break from practice Monday, two days after finishing off a 3-1 road trip with a victory over Michigan.
While four straight road matches might not sound that cruel, several circumstances led to some exhausted Gophers players in the last week.
The trip began with two matches Oct. 4 and 5 against Iowa and Illinois that each went over two and a half hours — both wins. The first match, against Iowa, was the longest match in Gophers history at two hours, 50 minutes.
The Gophers got an unwanted extension on the already long weekend after the Illinois match when their flight home was delayed in Waterloo, Iowa, because of fog.
The team practiced Tuesday, then took a bus to Madison, Wis. Minnesota played Wednesday night in a match televised by MSC and got trounced by the Badgers in three straight games. The Gophers didn’t get back to Minneapolis until after 1 a.m.
They practiced again Thursday and left for Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday. Still, despite the loss on Wednesday and the week of extensive traveling, Minnesota came out sharp Saturday night against Michigan, sweeping the Wolverines.
First-year coach Mike Hebert said he didn’t expect the team to come out as fresh as they did on Saturday, but Tara Baynes knew it would happen. The sophomore middle blocker said the Gophers were more than ready for Michigan.
“I wasn’t surprised at all,” she said. “We kind of forgot about Wednesday’s game. We were really pumped up for Michigan. It’s a tough place to play, like a lot of the places in the Big Ten. We were fired up for it all day.”
Not that the team didn’t eventually feel the effects of the travel.
“There were people sleeping in chairs in airport lounges,” Hebert said. “Or wherever they could find a spot.
“The players need a day of renewal, a study day. It’s a good day to go to the bank or the bookstore. The last couple of weeks, there hasn’t been much of a chance for that,” he added.
The Gophers, not predicted to make much noise in the Big Ten this year, now find themselves tied for third. Three victories in four road matches could be considered an upset. But once again, it’s no shock to Baynes.
“It didn’t really tell anything about us,” she said of Minnesota’s successful trip. “But it shows everyone else what we always knew.”
A Time to Kill
Senior Katrien DeDecker is leading the nation in kills per game with 6.25, according to NCAA statistics released last week.
DeDecker is only 29 kills away from 2,000 for her career, a feat accomplished by only two other players in Big Ten history: Purdue’s Debbie McDonald and Minnesota’s Andrea Gonzales. DeDecker needs 169 kills to pass Gonzales for the most in school history.
Becky Bauer is the other Gopher in the national rankings. The senior setter is ninth in the country in assists per game with 13.61.
Michigan State takes lead
The No. 7 Spartans beat No. 2 and previously unbeaten Penn State at home Friday night to remain undefeated in the Big Ten and take sole possession of first place in the conference.
The Gophers host Indiana and Purdue this weekend, then travel to play at Michigan State and Northwestern on Oct. 25 and 26.