Loss, win in eastern trip

Minnesota came out firing in game one, but couldn’t control the later games.

C.J. Spang

Despite strong individual performances from All-American setter Kelly Bowman and outside hitter Sarah Florian, Minnesota’s volleyball team was only able to manage only a split in their weekend road series with Purdue and Illinois.

On Friday, the ninth-ranked Gophers fell to No. 21 Purdue in four games, 16-30, 30-24, 30-24, 30-27, but were able to bounce back and defeat Illinois in four games on Saturday, 30-27, 30-27, 24-30, 30-21.

“I was pleased with the fact the team never really lost its poise,” coach Mike Hebert said. “Playing on the road is all about poise and execution and we never lost that.”

Minnesota (16-3 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) came out firing in game one against Purdue (16-3, 5-3), but was unable to keep control of the match; the Boilermakers won the next three games convincingly to win the match.

“We just lost our passing game,” Hebert said. “If you can’t pass the ball accurately, all of a sudden your offensive becomes limited in what it can do and plays into the hands of a good defensive team and that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s a pretty simple wrap-up. They played a great match and we played just an average match.”

But some of the Gophers played well above average.

Bowman notched her second triple-double of the season and the 11th of her career with 11 kills, 29 assists and 10 digs, middle blocker Jessy Jones had a career-high 15 kills and Florian added another 15 kills and a career-high six blocks.

“I think that it’s just something that kind of happens,” Bowman said. “It’s not something I think about. I think when we play a tough opponent it just kind of happens.”

Purdue was led by their senior setter Renata Dargan, who came close to a quadruple-double with nine kills, 49 assists, eight digs and seven blocks.

Dargan came into the game leading the Big Ten with a .423 hitting percentage, but Minnesota limited her to a hitting percentage of just .190.

It was a tough loss after so many people put up huge numbers, but Minnesota didn’t have time to dwell on the loss.

“Losses are always hard and then when you have less than 24 hours away from it, it’s hard to recover,” Florian said. “Our coaches made us aware of that and tried to help us through that.”

And the Gophers recovered quickly and defeated Illinois in four games.

“I would say (the players) were firm in their determination (to win),” Hebert said. “We have enough veterans on the team that know difficult is to win on the road no matter who you’re playing.”

While she may only be a sophomore, Florian played like a veteran, leading Minnesota with a career-high 20 kills.

“I think things were just kind of falling into place (for me),” Florian said. “My goals for the weekend were just to have confidence in myself and that’s kind of what I did and I think my teammates helped me with that.”