Home sweep ties U for second place

Tim Klobuchar

The pivotal fourth game of Saturday’s match against Purdue was down to its last few points when Gophers coach Mike Hebert called timeout.
Up two games to one but trailing 13-12 in this game, Hebert outlined a brilliant strategy that would put Purdue away.
“I dug down really deep,” he said with mock seriousness, “and said, `Let’s set the ball to Katrien (DeDecker).'”
To no one’s surprise, the move worked. DeDecker hammered home three kills after the timeout, including one on match point that sent the players into a joyous huddle on the court, Hebert off the bench with arms raised and the 2,000-plus crowd at the Sports Pavilion into a frenzy.
Minnesota took the match 15-6, 6-15, 15-7, 15-13 to complete a weekend home sweep of the Boilermakers and Indiana, whom the Gophers beat 12-7, 10-11, 16-10, 17-8 Friday night.
The wins pushed the Gophers’ into a tie for second in the Big Ten at 6-2. They’re 15-6 overall, two more wins than their total last year. Purdue fell to 10-10, 3-5.
Hebert was, of course, being facetious when he was describing his plan during the timeout. Earlier in the match, DeDecker became only the third player in Big Ten history to notch 2,000 career kills.
Telling the team to set up DeDecker was like the reincarnation of Vince Lombardi telling Steve Young to throw the ball to Jerry Rice in the Nike commercial. In both cases, common sense defeats complex strategy.
DeDecker shot often Saturday, piling-up 28 kills. She also misfired a few times as Purdue did a good job of blocking her.
But DeDecker converted when the team needed her, something she relishes.
“I always want to get the last kill of the game,” she said. “You have to be aggressive all the time, and the last point I was like, `OK, I’m going to put this ball away,’ and I did.”
Minnesota, as it did against Indiana, had a rough second game, dropping it 15-6. The difference, said Hebert, was the Gophers’ inability to handle Purdue’s serves. They adjusted to it after the second game and also helped themselves out with superb blocking.
Middle blockers Tara Baynes and Jane Passer and setter Becky Bauer keyed Minnesota’s blocking, something Passer said the Gophers have been concentrating on in practice.
“Our blocking coach Maurice (Batie) has done a really good job,” she said. “We’ve been focusing a lot more on blocking in practice lately.”
The Gophers had different problems with game two Friday night against Indiana. Looking at the score, 11-10, it looks incomplete. Actually it’s a reflection of the modified scoring rules used for televised games. ESPN2 was at the Pavilion on Friday, necessitating the changes. The first three games were timed at eight minutes apiece, with the clock moving only when the ball is in play.
The Gophers won the first game despite not getting 15 points, and Indiana returned the favor in the second, albeit in much more dramatic fashion. In what would amount to a last-second shot in basketball, Indiana served with a few seconds remaining and the scored tied at 10. Despite great saves by Minnesota’s Tera Fiamengo and Sarah Pearman, the Hoosiers won a long rally after time had expired to take the game.
Hebert has been critical of the revised rules, saying last week that they change the whole essence of the game by not allowing a team to come back no matter what the score. But after the match on Friday he didn’t blame the new format for that second game.
“Do I like the rules? No,” he said. “But once the match starts, both teams play by them, so there’s no advantage to either team. It’s awkward, but we had our chances to win that game.”
The only other complaint Hebert had about the weekend was that the Gophers weren’t quite at sharp at times as they have been the last few weeks. But, he said, that might actually be a sign of progress.
“The sign of a maturing team is winning when you’re not at your best,” Hebert said after the Purdue match Saturday. “And that’s what we did tonight.”
Indiana 7 11 10 8 — 1
Gophers 12 10 16 17 — 3

Leaders — Kills: DeDecker 24, Baynes 13, Passer 11, Fiamengo 10. Digs: Pearman 20, DeDecker 12, Passer 11. Assists: Bauer 53.
A — 2,124. T — 2:02.
Purdue 6 15 7 13 — 1
Gophers 15 6 15 15 — 3

Leaders — Kills: DeDecker 28, Passer 11, Pearman 8, Fiamengo 8, Bayer 7. Digs: Pearman 19, Passer 18, DeDecker 9. Assists: Bauer 48.
A — 2,016. T — 2:00.