Hawkeyes venture north for date at Sports Pavilion

Minnesota has won 10 of its past 11 matches heading into Wednesday’s match.

C.J. Spang

With its offense starting to click and its defense still consistent, Minnesota’s volleyball team looks more like the team that has reached the Final Four each of the past two seasons.

The ninth-ranked Gophers (13-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten) host Iowa today at 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion, on a three-game win streak.

Iowa (11-6, 1-3) lost to both Michigan and Michigan State this weekend while Minnesota beat the Spartans and Wolverines in straight games.

But coach Mike Hebert and the rest of the Gophers are not about to overlook any team.

“Iowa might be the best serving team we’ve faced this season,” Hebert said. “So we have to be able to pass the ball accurately off the tough service game to get some kind of equilibrium in our offense.

“I think that’s going to be the battle. Can their serve beat our passing game or can our passing game hold up against their serving.”

So far Minnesota has been holding its own on the serve, committing only 48 return errors compared with their opponents’ 82.

Besides preparing for Iowa’s strong serve, Hebert explained the Gophers offense has a ways to go.

“I thought we made progress,” Hebert said. “This week in practice we’re working on offense and that’s probably going to be the area where our team can improve the most.”

But Minnesota will have less practice time because of the midweek game.

However, no one on the team said the limited amount of practice and scouting time will have a negative effect.

“It’s a new thing for us, having all these new players going into a midweek game,” junior Meredith Nelson said. “But at the same time we’re pretty well-prepared.”

She went on to say that the situation is similar to a Friday and Saturday night series because much more of the week’s scouting is devoted to the Friday night opponent. She said that makes a Saturday game similar to the preparation the team would have for a midweek game.

But the team members aren’t worried, and Paula Gentil summed up the keys to midweek success.

“We can’t just focus on one thing and hope (Iowa) plays bad so we win,” Gentil said. “If we come out and try our best and play our hardest we should be fine.”