After struggling earlier this season, the Gophers have started rolling

Minnesota came from behind in this weekend’s matches in Michigan.

Robert Mews

Winning its past four matches, Minnesota’s volleyball team is starting to roll at the right time of the season.

The Gophers struggled earlier in the season against ranked teams, No. 14 Purdue, No. 19 Ohio State and No. 3 Penn State. However, coach Mike Hebert said the team is gaining confidence after coming from behind on the road this past weekend.

“This is a trait of the last three or four years of Minnesota volleyball,” Hebert said. “We may get knocked around early in games, but when it came time to score the big points Ö we were pretty good at that.”

The young Gophers have managed to come from behind only one other time this season. That match was Sept. 17 against Texas Christian University.

“Just going back three years, we’ve had teams loaded with veterans that understood how hard you have to play in the second half of the season,” Hebert said. “This group has taken much longer to find itself.”

Hebert a “goofball”

Hebert knows how to win. He has taken two different teams to the Final Four a total of four times – including last season’s Minnesota squad that lost to Stanford in the championship game – and is fourth among all active NCAA volleyball coaches, with 824 wins.

Hebert has a knack for getting his teams to win the tough games in the second half of a season. So what might be the secret to his success?

Senior libero Paula Gentil said Hebert keeps the team loose by being a “goofball.”

Sophomore middle blocker Jessy Jones said the same of Hebert.

“The great thing about him (Hebert) is that if you mess up on the court, you know you’re not just going to get screamed at,” Jones said.

Jones said Hebert will be serious during a match, but uses humor at times to get players’ attention.

“You respect the man so much,” Jones said. “You lose respect for a coach that constantly, constantly is yelling at you.”

Serving game improving

Minnesota’s serving game has been on fire as of late, as the team has averaged nine service aces in the last three wins.

Hebert said earlier in the season how important the pass-serve game was in order to be successful.

“There is always games within the game,” Hebert said. “If we serve well and force them to pass poorly, they don’t get into their offense. That helps us.”

Part of that serving game has come from All-American Gentil. She said her ankle is getting better, but still not 100 percent.

“I think one of the things is, Paula Gentil has really refined her serving game,” Hebert said.