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Four-game sweep through Mich.

A trip to the Wolverine State this weekend proved to be a test of adversity for the Minnesota’s young volleyball team.

The 17th-ranked Gophers (20-5, 10-4 Big Ten) overcame a quick start by Michigan (10-12, 4-9 Big Ten) on Friday to come from behind and win the match, 32-30, 23-30, 30-22, 30-24. They followed that with a four-game win at Michigan State on Saturday.

“It was a very competitive match,” coach Mike Hebert said of Friday’s date at Michigan. “We were very lucky to win the first game.”

In the first two games of the match, Minnesota had trouble scoring offensively. They had more kills than the Wolverines in the first two games – 29 to 28, respectively. However, Minnesota committed more errors than Michigan in the first half – 21 to 9.

“We were out of position for two out of the four games,” Hebert said about the offensive struggle.

Coming out of the half with the match tied one game apiece, Hebert made an offensive adjustment that proved to make a significant difference in the outcome of the match. Hebert moved freshman outside hitter Kyla Roehrig from the outer-right side of the net to the left side.

“It turned out to be Kyla Roehrig’s play on the left side that was significant in the win,” Hebert said. “Her hitting and blocking ranks as her best performance of the season.”

Roehrig led the team with 12 kills and finished the match with 3 1/2 blocks.

“We worked all week in practice on just being more confident in yourself,” Roehrig said. “If you’re more confident in yourself, your team will trust you more.”

Another decisive aspect in the match was Minnesota’s ability to win the serving game. Minnesota – coming off its season high of 12 service aces against Indiana last Wednesday – came out and continued that performance. All-American senior libero Paula Gentil knocked down three aces and the team finished the night with 10.

“I think we give people a lot of trouble with our serving game,” Hebert said.

In total, Michigan finished the night with 14 service errors.

Yet that momentum didn’t carry from Friday night to Saturday night as the Gophers went behind early against Michigan State. After losing the first game, Minnesota came back to win the next three and the match.

“Michigan State was one of the best teams we played all year,” Hebert said. “They took every ounce of everything we had.”

Hebert said the Spartans played “flawless offensively” in the first game. Michigan State finished game one with 22 kills while committing only five errors.

“They were passing well, setting to whoever they wanted to,” Hebert said, “and they were hitting the holy crap out of the ball.”

That performance prompted Hebert to make a change defensively. Hebert had Roehrig go back to the right side of the net and brought junior Meghan Cumpston off the bench to play at the left side. Hebert said he thought that change made a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

“We put Kyla on the right side to take away the incredible left-side hitting that was going on by them,” Hebert said.

The Spartans had strong performances by both their sophomore outside hitters, Ashley Schatzle and Katie Johnson – they finished the match with 23 and 24 kills, respectively.

However, the strong performance was not enough, as the Gophers won the last three games.

Hebert said the turning point in the match came when he called a timeout with his team leading 22-19 in the second game. The Spartans were gaining momentum and had a chance to go up in the match 2-0.

According to Hebert, the timeout gave his team a chance to calm down and regain focus. Minnesota returned from the timeout and completed a 9-0 run.

Part of that run was led by Cumpston.

“I think we showed a lot of heart,” Cumpston said. “We just wanted it so bad.”

Cumpston finished the night with 15 kills. The Gophers had four players with more than 10 kills.

“One of the things we did this weekend,” Hebert said, “is scored the big points in a game.”

Minnesota did just that in the third game when it had four tries at game point.

“Those situations are always tough,” Cumpston said. “But, when it comes down to it, it’s whoever wants it more and whoever is going to compete harder.”

Cumpston said she thinks adversity pulled the team through the rest of the match.

The weekend sweep in Michigan helped the Gophers into a three-team tie for second place in the Big Ten.

“This weekend we showed that we were not going to give up ever,” Cumpston said. “And we played the entire weekend with heart and competitiveness.”

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