Minnesota leads two sets to none at the break

by Brian Deutsch

Minnesota’s sophomore hitters Brook Dieter and Lauren Gibbemeyer have had no troubles hitting tonight, as the pair have combined for 21 kills to lead the Gophers to a 2-0 lead over Northwestern, 25-22, 25-23. The Wildcats have relied heavily on their two middle blockers, as they have done all season long, but Minnesota has still out-played Northwestern in all categories. Quickly, around the Big Ten, Illinois topped Indiana in four sets, Penn State swept Purdue in three, and in a surprising game, Iowa is up two sets to none on Wisconsin. Wisconsin comes to Minnesota tomorrow for the second match of the season. Notes on the match so far, Dieter is playing in the back row once again, as freshman Jessica Granquist has instead entered for Pamela Luiz. Luiz and Granquist have split the back-row time. Here’s Krista with the analysis. Daily: The Gophers out-blocked Northwestern 6-2 in the second set, making up for a .171 hit percentage. How important has Minnesota’s blocking been to the team’s success this season? Chin: As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Minnesota’s blocking has been outstanding this year. It is obvious the team worked on it quite a bit during the off season, and it is proving beneficial for the Gophers so far this season. The blocking scheme has really helped keep the back court disciplined, as they wait for their opportunity to touch the ball. Even if the Gophers do not get a block kill, there are getting great touches on the ball that allows the defense to make some adjustments and keep the ball in play. If their blocking continues, it will become key for them as the Big Ten season progresses. Other teams will have to find a way to make the ball hit the floor. It will be interesting to see how the blocking adjusts against teams such as Michigan, Penn State, and Wisconsin. Those three teams have some stud hitters that have played against some top teams in the country. Daily: Northwestern is still counting primarily on two hitters. How does this limit the Wildcat’s chances in the rest of the match? Chin: Because Northwestern is counting on two hitters, it allows the Gophers to key in on those two players. Minnesota may look to double up on those hitters and leave the rest of Northwestern’s front court alone with a solo block. Because Minnesota’s blocking has proven to be vital this season, this may not put the team in jeopardy as it may others. Northwestern needs to find a way to get the other hitters involved, or it could be a long night for those two hitters. Other players need to take charge and help the Wildcats give the Gophers a run for their money.