Spikers stay perfect in Tech Classic tune up

Brian Stensaas

It almost looked as though the Minnesota volleyball team was going to get this weekend’s four-match road trip in Atlanta off on the wrong foot.
On paper, it seemed to be a nice tune up for the anticipated match on Saturday with No. 11 Pacific. On the court, it was a near disappointment.
The 10th-ranked Gophers made a stop at Georgia State on Thursday night, coming out a bit shaky, but smoothing out in style, winning the match 15-11, 15-2, 15-12. The loss for Georgia State snapped a four-match winning streak. The Gophers pushed their record to 4-0 on the season.
“We were very flat to begin the match,” Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said.
“I thought three things turned the match in our favor: Lindsey Berg set the ball really well, (Yvonne) VanOort’s passing stabilized us for the second consecutive match, and third, Nicole’s (Branagh) bombing from the left side was consistent all night.”
Hebert’s comments on the three were proven — considering the numbers.
Berg finished the night with 42 assists, VanOort compiled 14 digs and Branagh slammed down 24 kills, all team leaders for the night.
But once again, it wasn’t just the veterans getting the job done for the Gophers.
Earlier this week, Hebert noted the play of freshmen Erin Lorenzen, Cassie Busse, Kelli Wicks and Bethany Brafford during last weekend’s tournament in Reno. On Thursday, all but Busse had a helping hand in the win.
Perhaps the most notable statistic on the night was the severe contrast in scoring from the first game to the second. The Panthers scored 11 points on the Gophers in the first game, compared to just a two in the second.
“The communication and just going back to the basics allowed us to refocus after game one,” Branagh said. “We picked it up nice in game two and then good things happened.”
Minnesota will kick off the Georgia Tech Classic today in Atlanta with a pair of matches. Coastal Carolina steps up first with a match at 10 a.m. Undefeated host Georgia Tech will then lock horns with Minnesota at 6 before Saturday’s 11 a.m. showdown with Pacific.
For Branagh, the quest is simple.
“As you play stronger teams along the way in the preseason, it prepares you well for the Big Ten,” she said. “We’re definitely looking forward to the U.P. match. We need to come out and play Minnesota volleyball. Hopefully tonight we got some things out of our system and we’ll improve in the few games before the U.P. game.”

Brian Stensaas covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]