Volleyball plows past Iowa in easy fashion

Headed into Wednesday night’s volleyball match, Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said the Gophers would need two victories to pull out the Iowa match — one win against Iowa and one against themselves.
Too bad for the No. 19 Gophers they can’t get credit for two wins, because Minnesota came out on top in both of them after a little gut-check.
The Gophers (20-5, 11-2 Big Ten) shot down the Hawkeyes (5-15, 3-10) at the Sports Pavilion, winning easily 15-4, 15-1, 15-11.
Both teams began the match with sloppy play, but Minnesota got things heated up and went on a 10-point run to win game one.
The Gophers kept the fire going as they held Iowa to a lone point in game two.
But the Hawkeyes wouldn’t fly south yet.
Iowa jumped out to a quick 11-4 lead in the third game before Minnesota crawled back, slamming the cage on the Hawkeyes’ hopes of an upset.
Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said he was pleased with the way the Gophers didn’t give up on the third game.
“We lost our grip on efficiency in game three for about 10 minutes,” Hebert said. “But our team recovered. It was just that one segment where as a team we lost our focus.”
Hebert said the ability to regain control of the match is a sign of the improvement in this year’s team.
“It’s lot easier for us to do that this year,” he said. “Last year’s team might of struggled a lot more tonight.”
Senior Linda Shudlick said the temporary lapse was partly because of low energy against a weak Iowa team.
“We could have thrown in the towel and said ‘lets go to game four,'” Shudlick said. “But we stuck together and pulled it out.”
Serving — by both teams — was the difference in the match. The Gophers put down seven aces to the Hawkeyes’ two. Iowa committed seven service errors, while Minnesota had only five.
The Gophers also continue to lower their hitting errors. Minnesota committed just 13 en route to a solid .337 hitting percentage.
Minnesota’s win gave them 20 in 25 matches this season. It’s the second-fastest Gophers team ever to reach the plateau, behind the 1989 team which did it in 24.
“It sure is nice to see the number 20 down in the win column,” Hebert said. “It is a magic number for every volleyball coach and player.”
Shudlick downplayed the 20th win and said it’s the same as any other.
“We come into every match thinking we are 1-0, and we need to win,” Shudlick said.

ù A Nicole Branagh kill in the second game was number 1,500 for her career. She is only the fifth Gophers player to reach that milestone.
Branagh should knock down her 1,520th kill this weekend to pass Pam Miller and jump into fourth place on the Gophers all-time list. Katrien DeDecker tops the list with 2,300 kills.

ù The women’s athletics department and WCCO Radio honored senior Heather Swenson and her hometown of Brooklyn Park during the intermission as part of the radio station’s “Hometown Day” promotion.

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