A weak Iowa team to host Minnesota

The Hawkeyes lost to teams the Gophers have swept this year.

Mark Heise

The Minnesota volleyball team’s first appearance on the Big Ten Network has all the makings of a route.

The Gophers (9-3 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) will make their debut on the new channel tonight at 7 p.m. as they travel to Iowa to take on the struggling Hawkeyes.

Iowa (8-5, 0-2) has traditionally done poorly against Minnesota, losing the last 23 matches in contests dating back to November 25, 2005.

On top of that, the Hawkeyes have had a poor start to the year, losing a pair of matches at home against Purdue and Indiana last weekend. Those teams were the same two teams Minnesota swept.

But despite a rich history of success and an on-paper advantage, freshman outside hitter Brook Dieter said the Gophers are still taking the match just as seriously as every other conference match.

“I think it’s important to look at Iowa the same way we look at a tough team like Michigan,” she said. “We can’t just go in there thinking it’ll be an easy match, or we could find ourselves in trouble.”

Iowa hasn’t found many ways to give teams trouble so far this season, but the Hawkeyes still do have a few assets.

Redshirt freshman middle blocker Becky Walters has found ways to contribute to the team in her first year on the court, leading Iowa with a .263 hitting percentage and 1.21 blocks per game.

Sophomore outside hitter Megan Schipper has also provided a spark for the Hawkeyes this season, averaging 3.24 kills per game to complement her 15 service aces on the year.

But coach Mike Hebert said Minnesota wouldn’t be focusing its efforts on stopping one or two players.

“They spread the ball around fairly evenly,” he said. “And unlike a lot of teams, I don’t think there is one player on that team that carries them offensively.”

Instead Hebert talked more about stopping one of Iowa’s biggest strengths, its serving game.

“That’s one of the things we’ve been talking about the last couple of days,” he said. “Our passing has been holding up fairly well lately. We’ve noticed that Iowa is one of the better-serving teams in the conference, and we’re going to have to be ready for that.”

One of the biggest weaknesses the Hawkeyes have shown, however, is their hitting. As a team, Iowa is hitting just .188 this season, and its offensive attacks have been prone to blocks.

The Hawkeyes’ opponents recorded 34.5 blocks over two matches last weekend, a stat that gives an advantage to Minnesota, a team known for its blocking.

“We will basically shut them down,” sophomore outside hitter Rachelle Hagerty predicted. “They’ll get a couple good swings, but they’re going to have to start tipping the ball. We’ve got some huge blockers on our team in Kyla Roehrig, Jessy Jones, Lauren (Gibbemeyer), Brook (Dieter), everyone can block.”

“That’s one of our strengths on this team, and if other teams are doing so well against Iowa, then it should be a huge advantage for us.”