Gophers easily take Invite

Minnesota had little trouble putting away any of the three teams at the Gopher Invitational.

Mark Heise

If success was measured solely by improvement, then the Minnesota volleyball team’s weekend would have been very fruitful.

The Gophers improved in every area Coach Mike Hebert talked about following the loss to California, as the team overpowered Charlotte on Friday along with Wisconsin-Green Bay and Creighton on Saturday.

“I think we really did a good job of coming together as a team,” freshman middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer said. “It was the first time I felt that our team played together; it’s definitely an improvement.”

Minnesota (7-3 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) improved its passing against Charlotte (8-5, 0-0 Atlantic Ten) displaying a very crisp defense during the first game. The Gophers recorded 51 digs over the course of three games in a 30-16, 30-18, 30-20 win.

Freshman outside hitter and tournament MVP Brook Dieter recorded 21 kills to become the first Gopher to record over 20 kills in a three-game match since 2004.

Another pleasant surprise for Minnesota came from junior defensive specialist Kelly Fallon, who made the most of the playing time afforded to her with consistent topspin serve and six digs.

“She had a great weekend,” Hebert said. “Kelly has improved her serving, defense and passing. She had a great weekend, and is a real motivator for this team.”

Minnesota waltzed through another match Saturday, topping Wisconsin-Green Bay (2-7, 0-0 horizon) in three games, 30-19, 30-20, 30-14.

Gibbemeyer produced 7 kills and hit .400 in the match, and the Gophers’ blocking and digging seemed to fit well together. Minnesota blocked 10 shots and set up digging lanes for the back row, allowing the Gophers to finish with 54 digs on the match.

“I thought that match helped us build as a team,” junior outside hitter Kyla Roehrig said. “We were able to get more players into that match and instead of relying on six people, we could rely on all 16.”

Creighton (7-5, 1-0 Missouri Valley) proved to be the biggest challenge, but Minnesota still handled the Jays, overcoming a second-game collapse to win 30-22, 29-31, 30-23, 30-13.

The Gophers dropped eight straight points in game two to trail 7-15, but came back strong with an 18-4 run, and came within two points of a win at 28-23. Creighton pulled off another run to tie the game at 28, and eventually won 29-31 to hand Minnesota its only setback of the tournament.

Dieter and Roehrig collected 20 kills apiece, while freshman libero Christine Tan contributed 30 digs and senior defensive specialist Kelly Roysland added 21 digs. Junior setter Rachel Hartmann produced 20 digs and 61 assists.

“We still need to work a little more on our communication and our free-ball passing,” Tan said. “We really want to make sure we make perfect passes on free balls, but I think we’ve definitely improved in this area.”

The only area the Gophers didn’t meet their goal in, according to Hebert, was the simple fact that the team is yet to find a right-side starter.

“Our blocks set up well and our block/defense coordination was very good, but we’re still searching for a starter on the right side,” he said. “We just can’t find anyone who wants to take that position and play confidently there.”

“Now we’re headed into next week’s practice, hopefully those sessions will reveal somebody who really wants that position.”