Taatjes steals Gordon-Gentil show

Stacey Gordon and Paula Gentil did their parts, but Lindsey Taatjes was the MVP.

Kent Erdahl

Saturday night wasn’t supposed to be about Lindsey Taatjes.

After all, Minnesota’s volleyball team was playing Big Ten rival Ohio State in a rematch of whom the conference named, its two best players.

But somebody must have forgotten to tell Taatjes that Big Ten player of the year Stacey Gordon and Big Ten defensive player of the year Paula Gentil were supposed to be the main attractions.

So, instead of quietly taking a back seat to the Gordon-and-Gentil show, Taatjes used Saturday to broadcast her emergence as a top option on offense and become the most valuable player of the Minneapolis regional.

Gordon and Gentil didn’t disappoint – Gentil led both squads with 38 digs and three aces, and Gordon finished with a career-high 44 kills – but even the Gophers’ libero said Taatjes deserved the award.

“(Gordon) carried their team, and Lindsey, at times, carried ours,” Gentil said. “You could say that Lindsey has more gifts because she can set, which is something Gordon can’t.”

It’s not that Taatjes wasn’t expected to be a factor – the senior setter quietly led the team in assists, and was second in digs and service aces throughout the season.

But this weekend marked the first time Taatjes registered a triple-double, and she did it twice by adding four kills to her career high on consecutive nights – 14 against Georgia Tech on Friday and 18 against Ohio State on Saturday.

Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said the rapid improvement in her hitting was the result of Taatjes’ ability to grow into an option in the team’s new offense during her final year.

“It’s literally like telling a football player who played defensive back that, in their senior year, they’re going to play quarterback,” Hebert said. “Now, she’s one of our go-to hitters. I’ve never seen that happen.”

Hebert said Taatjes became a primary offensive weapon during the fourth and fifth games against the Buckeyes because of the way they defended her.

“The way they were blocking opened her up,” Hebert said. “Historically, we don’t set her a lot, so we said, ‘You know what, let’s fire the ball to her,’ and she delivered.”

She actually delivered a team-high five times in the fourth game and helped finish off Ohio State with two more kills and five assists in the fifth.

By the end of the regional, Taatjes had 32 kills, 78 assists, 36 digs, three aces and the MVP.

She said she couldn’t have imagined posting those numbers before the season. But instead of taking credit, she opted for something she’s done for more than just one season – assisting her teammates.

“I thought I would be the accessory out there, the last option for hitting,” Taatjes said. “But with Erin Martin and (Trisha) Bratford on the outside, having people key on them, it opens up a lot of things for me. It helps that they’re doing well, because it opens me up.”