Gophers head on the road after good start at home

Gophers freshman outside hitter Ashley Wittman warms up before starting the second half of the game against Dayton Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.

Mark Vancleave

Gophers freshman outside hitter Ashley Wittman warms up before starting the second half of the game against Dayton Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.

Lindsay Guentzel

Starting off the year with a home record of 5-1 , the Gophers womenâÄôs volleyball team is ready to take their dominance on the road. Next stopâÄîDurham, N.C., where the team will take on Duke, Delaware, and North Carolina Central in the Duke Invitational . This is the GophersâÄô first road trip of the season, after winning both the Gopher Invite and the Diet Coke Classic at home . Their only loss came last Saturday in a five game decision against No. 22 Northern Iowa , dropping the Gophers from No. 8 to No. 12 in this weekâÄôs AVCA Top 25 . None of the teams they will face in Durham are nationally ranked. Head coach Mike Hebert said the team has been prepping for the Duke Invitational the same way they would for a home series and is very confident heading out on the road. âÄúWeâÄôve always been a good road team and I think we keep things on an even field whether weâÄôre here at the pavilion or on the road,âÄù he said. âÄúWeâÄôre not too concerned about that.âÄù Of the three teams theyâÄôll face this weekend, the Gophers are the most familiar with Duke, Hebert said. They had the opportunity to watch them play last year during the first round of the NCAA tournament, where Tennessee beat Duke 3-1 . âÄúWeâÄôve seen them play and theyâÄôre a good team,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúThey have a lot of talent. Are we worried about them? No, weâÄôre not a worrying team. But I think thatâÄôs probably the best team out there, despite us.âÄù Named to the Diet Coke Classic All-Tournament Team for her performance last weekend , junior Jessica Granquist picked up some more honors this week, earning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week . âÄúIt definitely boosts my confidence, knowing that my whole team helped me out in getting that award,âÄù Granquist said. âÄúIt just makes me want to work harder.âÄù After the Duke Invitational, the Gophers have one more road tournament before opening the Big Ten season with Michigan State on Sept. 25 . Four Big Ten teams are ranked in the top-25, including defending national champion Penn State at No. 1 and Illinois at No. 3. âÄúOnce the conference starts things get a little more serious, a little more intense,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúThe matches are tougher and they mean a lot more.âÄù After graduating early from UCLA, junior Stephanie Nucci transferred to the University to play with the Gophers while pursuing her graduateâÄôs degree. She spent the summer getting acclimated to the team with the rest of the new players and said sheâÄôs ready to experience a Big Ten match-up. âÄúThe tradition here is so amazing, itâÄôs definitely different than anything IâÄôve experienced,âÄù Nucci said. âÄúâĦThey keep talking about Wisconsin and how cool that match up is because we are in Williams arena and it draws a big crowd. So IâÄôm pretty excited.âÄù Both Hebert and Granquist said they are excited to play Illinois, which swept No. 2 Texas last weekend . âÄúItâÄôs great for them, just makes me want to play them even more,âÄù Granquist said. Minnesota went 1-1 with Illinois last year , andare set to host the Fighting Illini at the Sports Pavilion on Oct. 22 . âÄúI think Illinois is probably peaking right about now with the group theyâÄôve had together for a few years,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúWe canâÄôt wait to get them here in our own building.âÄù