Four injuries didn’t prevent the Gophers volleyball team from four victories at the Eagle Classic in Boston this weekend.
With Tara Baynes on the bench resting an injured back, and Katrien DeDecker, Becky Bauer and Jill McDonell slowed with injuries of their own, Minnesota found ways to win.
On Friday, the Gophers, led by DeDecker’s 22 kills, topped Providence 15-7, 14-16, 15-1, 15-4. Then Dartmouth fell in straight games, 15-10, 15-5, 15-5.
Minnesota took two more matches Saturday when it beat Bucknell 15-11, 15-4, 15-7 and then stormed through host Boston College 15-13, 15-0, 15-2.
To watch Minnesota play, no one would suspect the team is plagued with injured players.
“It’s been disruptive,” first-year coach Mike Hebert said of the early problems. “We’ve had to bring up some new stuff to accommodate the injuries.”
That’s how its been so far for Minnesota. Under Hebert, the Gophers have paid more attention to shuffling lineups than savoring their 9-4 record entering the start of Big Ten play.
That’s partly because of the Gophers’ bench. With just three available freshmen, Hebert hasn’t had a deep lineup with which to work. Its forced most of the injured players to play through the pain.
“That’s the team we inherited,” Hebert said.
DeDecker missed practice last week because of a knee problem but led the team over the weekend. In four matches, the senior had 67 kills.
Like DeDecker, Bauer’s knee has been ailing all season and McDonell, like Baynes, has been nursing her bad back.
“We haven’t had time to rest,” Hebert said. “We’ve needed to be very fortunate.”
Baynes, a sophomore, said the team has been resilient through the early part of the season thanks to Hebert.
“Ninety percent of our winning is from Coach (Hebert),” she said. “He’s been our main source.”
Baynes said her back has been sore since the season began. During the Sept. 13 Diet Coke Classic, her back inflamed further, and she ended up missing practice all of last week.
Baynes said she hopes to be ready once the Gophers open conference play against PennState and Ohio State this weekend at the Sports Pavilion.
With Minnesota’s team depth looking thin, Hebert said his lineup modifications will be limited.
“The numbers aren’t there,” Hebert said. “We end up playing people out of position.”
Looking at a 9-4 record, Hebert said his team has not been challenged yet. He said Friday will be a true indication of how the team can play under adverse conditions.
“I expected there would be difficulties this year,” he said. “We haven’t rolled over for anyone. A team has to actually beat us. We’ll have a clearer idea when we open the Big Ten.”