Gophers go 1-2 at Nebraska Tourney

Minnesota became the first team this year to win a game against No. 1 Nebraska.

by Mark Heise

For Minnesota’s volleyball team, this weekend’s goal was simple – improve.

After an underachieving tournament the week before, the Gophers needed a boost, and received it in the form of three quality matches against very tough competition.

The Gophers (2-4 overall) started things off with a four-game win against 25th-ranked Cal Poly (5-2 overall). Minnesota then lost two straight four-game matches to No. 20 Louisville (5-3 overall) and No.1 Nebraska (8-0 overall).

Coach Mike Hebert was most impressed with his team’s defensive play over the weekend.

“We clearly improved our defense and showed moments where we were close to spectacular,” Hebert said of the defense. “We were more disciplined this weekend and played with greater effort.”

Minnesota started off slow against Cal Poly, losing the first game 21-30, but fought off three game points to come back and win the second game 35-33.

The Gophers overpowered the Mustangs in game three, out-hitting Cal Poly with an average of .600 to a brutal minus .034. Minnesota picked up their largest margin of victory on the season, winning 30-17. The Gophers finished off the match, taking an early 10-9 lead and never looking back for the 30-25 win.

Roehrig led the Gophers with a career-high 22 kills and senior middle blocker Jessy Jones added 11 kills. In her first match of the year, senior outside hitter Kelly Bowman contributed 11 kills and 13 digs.

Bowman felt the team did a very good job making adjustments to Cal Poly’s play.

“Cal Poly played very well defensively,” she said. “We adjusted to that and I think we really took them out of their rhythm.”

The second match gave Minnesota a chance to upset another team, No. 20 Louisville. The Gophers managed to out-hit the Cardinals, but couldn’t quite pick up the win in a tight four-game loss.

After a decisive 30-22 game one win, Minnesota dropped a pair of games 26-30. The Gophers managed to tie the final game at 28, but Louisville scored the final two points, taking the match with a 30-28 win.

Jones played another quality game, collecting a career-high 21 kills while adding seven blocks. Seniors Meredith Nelson and Meghan Cumpston contributed 12 and 10 kills, respectively, and Bowman recorded another double-double with 11 kills and 15 digs.

“Being the competitive person that I am, it was a little (disappointing) to lose,” Jones said. “Our passing was awesome, it was something we didn’t have to worry about.”

Minnesota finished the tournament strong against No. 1 Nebraska, beginning the match with a 30-28 win. The win marked the first game the Huskers had lost all season. They had won their first 21 games of the year.

Sophomore outside hitter Katie Vatterrodt had a solid match, recording 17 kills, 11 coming in the first two games.

“We wanted to show that we could play with this sort of team, and we felt confident at the start,” Vatterrodt said. “We started off really well and tried to keep that momentum going.”

The Huskers came back in the second game, overtaking the Gophers for a 30-25 win after Minnesota had tied the game at 18.

The Gophers struggled to keep up with Nebraska in the final two games, as the Huskers overpowered Minnesota with a .337 hitting percentage compared with the Gophers’ .256.

Roehrig led the Gophers with 19 kills and a .485 hitting percentage while sophomore setter Rachel Hartman, who was solid all tournament, collected a double-double with 58 assists and 15 digs. Bowman picked up her third double-double in as many matches, recording 10 kills and 10 digs and freshman libero Christine Tan led the team with a career-high 21 digs.

Despite losing two of three games, the team was upbeat following the tournament.

“We feel we did well,” Bowman said. “After the weekend, we know that we can be a very good team, and we’re right on track for where we need to be.”