Gophers shake off slow start, dump Iowa

Kent Erdahl

W

hen Minnesota’s volleyball team faced the Hawkeyes in Iowa City on Wednesday night, the Gophers’ toughest competition could be found in the reflection of a mirror.

After a short, self-inflicted scare, No. 2 Minnesota started picking apart Iowa’s defense with such efficiency that the Gophers were boarding the bus three games and 1 1/2 hours later.

Iowa posted a quick 13-7 lead in the first game, but the Gophers were responsible for most of the damage. Of the 13 points, eight of them were the result of Minnesota attack errors.

“We started very sluggishly because of our hitting,” coach Mike Hebert said. “We were passing well and defending well, but we just kept hitting the ball out.”

The Gophers finished the game with an abysmal .174 percentage, but they won 30-21 because Iowa hit for a perfectly erroneous .000, tallying seven kills and seven errors.

Minnesota settled down in the second half of the first game thanks to outside hitters Erin Martin and Trisha Bratford. The two propelled the Gophers with seven and four kills, respectively.

“It was all our errors (in the first half of the game). We were trying to do too much with the ball,” Martin said. “But once we settled down and got into our swings, we really started putting the ball away.”

Settling down might be an understatement. Despite the eight attack errors in the first half of the game, Minnesota completed the rest of the match with only 11.

That efficiency showed in the second game. Minnesota attacked the Hawkeyes (9-10) from all angles, including from the right side, which is made up of Minnesota’s two setters, Kelly Bowman and Lindsey Taatjes.

The two combined for 17 kills in the match. The setters’ hitting opened up the rest of the floor for the rest of the offense, and it showed most in game two. Minnesota (17-2) outhit Iowa .404 to .111 in the game.

“We wanted to get the ball a little more to the right side in order to take pressure off of the left,” Taatjes said. “We spent a lot of time on it during practice this week, and I think it really paid off.”

In the third game, Iowa kept within five points for the most of the contest, but the Hawkeyes ended up falling by that margin, 30-25.

The Gophers maintained their efficiency in the game, but one of the team’s biggest boosts came from an unfamiliar face.

Freshman middle blocker Jessy Jones racked up six kills in only seven attempts for a .857 percentage.

“That’s a nice on-the-road performance by a freshman,” Hebert said. “She was comfortable and really had some great swings.”

Hebert also said he was impressed with the way his team took care of business. Not that that’s anything new against Iowa. The win was Minnesota’s 18th in a row over the Hawkeyes.

Minnesota takes on Illinois on Saturday in its first match in Williams Arena since 1993.