Gophers fall in five to No. 11 Hawaii

The Minnesota volleyball team shouldnâÄôt have any trouble handling a Big Ten crowd this season. The Gophers showed they were capable of playing well in a difficult atmosphere this weekend, nearly toppling the host team, No. 11 Hawaii in front of 5,500 fans before losing a close match in five sets. No. 12 Minnesota (5-1 overall) finished off the tournament, sweeping both Cincinnati and Wyoming in straight sets. âÄúThey were prepared for the crowd , and dealt with it like a veteran team,âÄù coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúWe did really well in that type of environment.âÄù The GophersâÄô big challenge came on the first day of the tournament, squaring off against Hawaii right away. MinnesotaâÄôs offense struggled, as did HawaiiâÄôs , as the defensive play dictated the flow of the game. The Gophers picked up 14 blocks to hold Hawaii to a .208 hit percentage, but Minnesota managed only a .186 percentage. âÄúThe defense was the dominant feature of the match,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúBoth teams were pretty efficient offensively although the hit percentages werenâÄôt very high. âÄúTo me, the match came down to HawaiiâÄôs very aggressive serving,âÄù he said. âÄúThat was a level of serving we havenâÄôt seen to this point.âÄù Hawaii (4-2) collected four aces to the GophersâÄô three, but the strong serving helped keep MinnesotaâÄôs offense off-balance. The Gophers handled this well, however, coming back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to tie the matchup, forcing a fifth game. But the fifth game quickly went to the home team, giving Hawaii the match, 25-22, 21-25, 25-19, 23-25, 15-7. âÄúWe just hit the wall in the fifth game,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúWe got off to a rough start, and in a short game like that, itâÄôs tough to recover.âÄù Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer had 11 kills and 10 blocks in the losing effort, while junior outside hitter Pamela Luiz added seven kills, and a team-high hit percentage of .357. âÄúWe thought we could take Hawaii, and I think we could beat them in four [games] if we had another opportunity,âÄù senior setter Rachel Hartmann said. âÄúWe were well-prepared, but the things that went poorly were things that usually go well for us. But maybe thatâÄôs good, because now we know how to respond to that, and we did bounce back in the next two matches.âÄù The offense looked much stronger against Cincinnati (4-2) , as the Gophers hit .296 as a team, with eight different players recording kills. Minnesota continued to play well defensively, collecting 14 blocks to hold the Bearcats to a .054 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter led the way with 10 kills and seven blocks and sophomore defensive specialist Hailey Cowles added a pair of ace serves as Minnesota rolled over Cincinnati , 25-17, 25-13, 25-20. Cowles became a major factor against Wyoming (0-6), leading the team offensively with 10 kills while collecting a team-leading 15 digs as well. âÄúIt was fun to get a chance to go play front row,âÄù Cowles said. âÄúIt was nice to get up there and be able to swing away, and know that if need be I can fill in there and still help the team.âÄù The Cowboys were held to a negative hitting percentage while averaging less than eight kills per game, and the Gophers cruised through their final match of the weekend, 25-12, 25-16, 25-12.