Volleyball steams past Hawkeyes with 3-0 sweep

Two tests of any good team are overcoming injuries and winning on the road.
The Minnesota volleyball team took a shot of both tests Wednesday night in Iowa City when setter sensation Lindsey Berg didn’t make the trip to Minnesota’s first Big Ten away game.
Berg, out with a virus, is usually the bedrock of the Minnesota offense. But for the game with Iowa, the Gophers strong offensive front was manned by senior Susan Shudlick.
Most teams might have a lapse with the switch, but not the Gophers. They were able to take care of business, sweeping the Hawkeyes 15-5, 15-8, 15-1.
Coach Mike Hebert said Shudlick held the team together and he couldn’t tell Minnesota (12-3, 3-0) was playing with a backup setter.
“(Shudlick) was efficient, confident and frankly damn good tonight,” Hebert said. “I didn’t notice for a second we lacked confidence.”
Shudlick said she was a little nervous going in, especially because it was a Big Ten match on the road. In the absence of Berg, Shudlick was happy with the road win, which dropped Iowa to 2-8 overall and 1-2 in the Big Ten.
“Everybody pulled together in a tough gym to play in,” Shudlick said.
Hebert, who has coached in the Big Ten for the past 16 years, said the Gophers played the most dominating match by an opposing team he has ever witnessed at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“I’ve never had a team play this sharp in this building,” he said.
Shudlick finished the evening with 34 assists. Minnesota out killed Iowa 42-27, with Yvonne Wichert and Nicole Branagh leading the Gophers attack with 12 and 10 kills respectively.
Minnesota’s defense was equally impressive. The Gophers out blocked Iowa 14-4, and held the Hawkeyes to a .000 hitting percentage.
Minnesota, which has rolled off six wins in a row against tough competition, is still yet to be ranked in the AVCA volleyball poll. Although the Gophers beat Wisconsin, which is still in the top 25, Hebert said the polls are tricky and not being ranked doesn’t bother him.
“I’ve had teams that were ranked when they shouldn’t have been ranked, and teams that should’ve been ranked that weren’t,” Hebert said. “It’s a funky, funky business. I’m always happy when we’re mentioned, but I’m never unhappy when we aren’t.”
The Gophers will look to break into the polls when they return to campus for a showdown Saturday night with Northwestern.
Minnesota has won the last 11 meetings with the Wildcats, dating back to 1993. Although the Wildcats (2-10, 0-2) come in dead last in Big Ten, Hebert will prepare his team for a battle.
“I expect every opponent to come out and play their absolute best match of the year against us,” Hebert said.

John R. Carter covers volleyball and welcomes commens at [email protected]