Gophers home after nine-game road swing

Minnesota opens its Big Ten home season tonight vs. Michigan State.

by C.J. Spang

No one on Minnesota’s volleyball team thought the road to a Big Ten championship would be smooth sailing. The Gophers hit their first speed bump in Madison, Wis., last weekend, when the team dropped a five-game match to the 10th-ranked Badgers.

This weekend Minnesota plays host to Michigan State today and Michigan on Saturday, both at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion, for the team’s first home weekend in nine matches.

“It’s really important that we got back home because we all now know where the Pavilion is again,” coach Mike Hebert said. “We had to pass out a map.”

After playing in hostile environments the past few matches, the Gophers are looking forward to the home court advantage they have in the Pavilion.

“I couldn’t think of a better example than the Nebraska match,” senior Kelly Bowman said. “Everyone was going nuts and we just feed off of that.”

However, being at home doesn’t mean the competition will be any less fierce.

Both Michigan State and Michigan are 1-1 in conference play, and as Hebert explained, are very capable of beating anybody.

“I know Michigan State and Michigan are going to come in here and want to beat us at our house,” sophomore Jessy Jones said. “We cannot underestimate anyone and if we do, we’re probably going to end up with a loss.”

Michigan State is anchored by outside hitter Katie Johnson, who is averaging nearly six kills per game and is the type of player who can take control of a match.

Michigan’s Katie Bruzdzinski is leading the team with just more than four kills per game and in Hebert’s mind, is one of the best outside hitters in the conference.

But Minnesota’s defense has proved it can stand up to the best offenses in the country, but to win this weekend, the team will need to improve its inefficient offense.

“We’re going to go back to some very basic offensive building blocks this week,” Hebert said. “Just the basic building blocks of hitting, set selection and building in the right plays we want to run.”