Gophers sweep midweek match against Iowa

C.J. Spang

Going into Wednesday’s match against Iowa, Minnesota’s volleyball team was ranked second in the country behind Washington in opponent-hitting percentage at .101.

The Gophers held Iowa to a minute .043 hitting percentage in their three-game romp over the Hawkeyes, 30-22, 30-17, 30-15.

“That’s the most important number on the page,” coach Mike Hebert said. “It incorporates the impact of our good serving, good block location, funneling balls to our defense and it implies organized defense – it’s the number about which I’m most proud.”

Coming into the match, Iowa was known for its outstanding service game, but Minnesota was able to turn the tables and notched eight service aces, while not allowing an Iowa ace.

In the first game, the Gophers fell behind 2-3 – the last time they trailed in the match – but ran off five points in a row and eight of the next 10 to take the lead for good.

Minnesota’s dominance continued in the second game breaking the game open with 11 of 15 points to take the lead 21-11.

But the third game was most impressive.

Malama Peniata started the game with an ace, and the Gophers poured it on from there, scoring the first seven points and 16 of 20 to bury the Hawkeyes.

Outside hitter Sarah Florian led Minnesota with 16 kills. Jessy Jones added another 11 kills on only 14 attempts for an outrageous .786 hitting percentage.

“I don’t think that we look at it like a blowout,” Florian said. “At this point in time we have certain things that we’re trying to work on because we have a tough schedule coming up and we’re just trying to get better.”

Before Wednesday’s match, Hebert mentioned that he hoped to get some of his reserves into the match.

With the Gophers up 28-15, the small crowd started chanting for Athena Mallakis. Mallakis had seen time in only three games this season, and made her fourth game count.

She quickly got a kill, making it 29-15, then drove her serve into the top of the net and it rolled over for a service ace, ending the match.

“It’s wonderful to see her do well,” Jones said. “She’s such a great teammate all around and to see her get in there and have the crowd going crazy for her. It’s just a great feeling for a friend to have for another friend.”