Gophers have a chance to bounce back after loss to Calif.

Mark Heise

With just one week remaining before the Big Ten season, the focus for the Minnesota volleyball team has become clear.

The Gophers (4-3 overall, 0-0 Big Ten) will be spending their weekend tournament making last-minute adjustments, as they host Charlotte 7:30 p.m. Friday and Wisconsin-Green Bay and Creighton at 12:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, respectively, at the Sports Pavilion.

In fact, that seemed to be the only real concern, although coach Mike Hebert, sophomore libero Christine Tan and freshman middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer all said they were still hoping to pick up the first tournament win of the season.

“It would be a great confidence booster going into the Big Ten season, and it’d be nice to win one for our fans at home,” Tan said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

The tournament does appear to be the most winnable compared to the other two played so far, as it will be the only one not to feature another ranked team.

No. 13 Minnesota will begin the tournament against the Charlotte 49ers, a team that has played just one of the top 115 teams so far this season. Charlotte (8-2, 0-0 Atlantic Ten) lacks a regular starter taller than 6 feet, and does not have a regular attacker hitting above .255 on the year.

Wisconsin-Green Bay (1-5, 0-0, Horizon) has already lost to Siena this season, a team the Gophers held to a .090 hitting percentage while routing them in a three-game sweep in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season.

The Phoenix are led by two outside hitters, junior Liesl Tesch and sophomore Holly Visser. Both average over three kills per game, but consistency has been a problem, as the pair’s hitting percentage is well below the .200 mark. Green Bay’s strength is its aggressive serving, as the team averages 1.73 aces per game.

The final match will feature Creighton (5-4, 1-0 Missouri Valley), a team that has never beaten a ranked opponent, riding a 0-26 streak that began Sept. 1, 1998 with a loss to Nebraska. The Jays have never even taken a ranked opponent to five games, losing 20 of 26 in three-game sweeps.

Senior middle blocker Kelly Goc leads the team with 3.33 kills per game and a .309 hit percentage, and might have to carry the team if it hopes to end its run of losses.

Aside from winning, Hebert addressed three main goals for the Gophers to accomplish this weekend.

The first on the agenda is to find a steady starter for the position of right-side hitter. Juniors Katie Vatterrodt and Kelly Schmidt have seen time in the position, along with sophomore Rachelle Hagerty.

While all three bring a different aspect to the table, Hebert said he would like one to step up instead of using a platoon of players.

“We’re still fishing around for who’s going to start on the right side. (Vatterrodt) is a well-rounded player, (Hagerty) can terminate, and (Schmidt) is probably our best blocker,” he said.

“I’d like to find a starter. I don’t think it’s good to come to the match every night and try to figure out who’s going to fill the position. I don’t think that’s the way to build a strong chemistry on the court.”

The second area Hebert addressed was improving the passing game.

“It’s not that we’re a poor-passing team, but we allow ourselves to go on some poor-passing streaks,” he said. “We have to start consistently passing the ball more accurately.”

The last thing Hebert said Minnesota needs to do is to learn from the tough loss to California last weekend. But after a full week of practice, that last step might already have been completed.

Gibbemeyer said the team has already learned from that matchup.

“It was good to come home after a big loss like that,” Gibbemeyer said. “It’s important to get back in the gym so we can make sure something like that doesn’t happen again.”