Spring loss doesn’t worry team for 2011

The Gophers ended the spring exhibition season 7-3 in preparation for the fall.

by Aleutian Calabay

For the Minnesota volleyball team, the spring schedule was intended to be a vehicle to progress and get ready for the regular season. The Gophers came away feeling they accomplished what they wanted as they finished up their rehearsal matches Saturday against a tough Nebraska team. Even though Minnesota lost all five sets, the team left the floor with high confidence. âÄúThe spring schedule gave us exactly what we wanted, Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúIt allowed everyone to get chances to play, and we got some wins against some very high-caliber teams.âÄù The Gophers finished this spring with an overall record of 7-3 and will have plently of reasons to feel upbeat as they head into the fall. They are returning nine letterwinners, including first-team All-American middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer , who is just one of several distinguished veteran players on the team. The Gophers will also have an influx of fresh talent as they boast one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Minnesota will bring in Tori Dixon, daughter of former Minnesota Viking David Dixon. Minnesota has also recently signed Steffi Sooter out of Santa Cruz, Calif. They will be joining much anticipated freshman Ashley Wittman, the 2009 Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year, who has been allowed to play with the Gophers during the spring thanks to early enrollment. Although statistics are not kept during the spring matches, both coaches and players have noted Wittman’s solid play. âÄúI’m fitting in a lot better now than I was in the beginning,âÄù Wittman said. âÄúI’ve been getting a feel for how we mesh and how we play together as we get ready for all the games we’ll be playing in the fall.âÄù The biggest question facing the Gophers is whether they can perform well on a consistant basis as streaky play was one of the few negatives from last season’s Final Four squad. But if the spring matches are any indication of what is to come, especially following the win over Texas, then this Minnesota team may have a chance to repeat, if not do better than, last season’s results. âÄúOur team has been progressing at the rate we’ve hoped for,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúThey’ve done a solid job throughout the spring, and they’ve improved. Overall, I’m very pleased with everything.âÄù