Gophers ready for Penn State showdown

No. 5 Minnesota hosts Ohio State, No. 1 Penn State this weekend.

Aleutian Calabay

The Sports Pavillion will play host to two Big Ten matchups this weekend including a game with the nationâÄôs top team. The No. 5 Gophers (13-3 overall, 4-0 Big Ten) host Ohio State (14-3, 2-2) on Friday at 6 p.m. and face No. 1 Penn State (16-0, 4-0) on Sunday at 1 p.m. While the Buckeyes have a solid team this year, the matchup of the weekend is undoubtedly against Penn State. There are many ways to describe how dominant the Nittany Lions have been over the last few seasons. But wins speak louder than anything else, and in that regard, no team comes close to a Penn State squad in the midst of an 80-game winning streak dating back to Sept. 15, 2007. âÄúThereâÄôs no pressure on Minnesota; itâÄôs all on Penn State,âÄù Gophers head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúTheyâÄôre the ones that have to come in here on the road. They have come in here and stomped us before, but the pressure can really get to a team to be so good for so long.âÄù Thus far the Nittany Lions have not shown any sort of breaking point. They donâÄôt just win games. They make sure their opponents go home knowing they never stood a chance. On top of a perfect record, Penn State has lost only one set all season thus far, which came against Iowa last Friday. Penn State leads the Big Ten in almost every statistical category, including hitting percentage, kills, blocks and assists. Even with all the impressive feats Penn State has accomplished, the Gophers have plenty of their own reasons to feel confident going into this matchup. Minnesota is currently riding a six-game winning streak, including a perfect 4-0 start in the Big Ten. The Gophers also hold the distinction of having yet to lose a single set in conference play, including a three-set sweep over the Iowa team that took a set from Penn State. The solid play of the Gophers has also brought them to No. 5 in the national rankings. This top-five matchup is receiving attention all across the volleyball community, and the players are taking notice. âÄúItâÄôs always exciting to play Penn State,âÄù junior Brook Dieter said. âÄúEvery year that IâÄôve been here itâÄôs been a big deal. I think especially this year we are much more confident going into it; weâÄôve been improving so much every week. ThereâÄôs going to be a lot of fans, and itâÄôs going to be loud.âÄù The Gophers are going to need the support of the home crowd to be able to match the intensity that Penn State brings to every match. The Nittany Lions may also force the Gophers to mix up their game plan. âÄúI think they play a style thatâÄôs really similar to ours,âÄù senior Christine Tan said. âÄúPenn State makes it more challenging because they have such a talented group, but weâÄôre going to key on their more experienced players and take our chances with other hitters.âÄù Although SundayâÄôs matchup may be the attention-getter of the weekend, FridayâÄôs game against Ohio State will be a tough test for the Gophers as well. The Buckeyes came into conference play with a 12-1 record and were picked by coach Hebert as the dark-horse team in the Big Ten race. Ohio State has gone 2-2 so far in the conference, beating both Iowa and Northwestern in straight sets. âÄúI expect a significant challenge from Ohio State,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúThey know what theyâÄôre doing; their coach, Geoff Carlston, is from the Twin Cities and is a friend of mine, and he will have that team ready to come in here and play. I know Geoff really wants to win in our building.âÄù