U’s Berg up for rookie honors

Sarah Mitchell

With the regular season wrapping up Saturday, Gophers setter Lindsey Berg could be closing in on the Big Ten freshman of the year award.
The Honolulu native leads the league with 57 service aces. Berg’s 1,255 single-season assist total lands her a ninth place rank in Gophers history. Former Gopher Sharon Oesterling set the current record, tallying 1,725 assists in 1989.
Along with Berg, three freshmen have been named as finalists for the prestigious title. Wisconsin middle blocker Sherisa Livingston, Michigan State outside hitter Erin Hartley and Iowa middle blocker Sara Meyermann are Berg’s competitors. Coaches are expected to vote this week, and Berg already seems to have at least one vote in the bag.
“I think Lindsey may have played the biggest role or had the biggest impact,” Hebert said. “I think if they take that into consideration, Lindsey will receive a lot of attention.”
But with all the praise directed toward the freshman, Berg herself looks to sophomore outside hitter Nicole Branagh as the team leader.
“She’s definitely our star,” Berg said.
Over the weekend Branagh collected her 1,000th career kill. The sophomore now has 1,016, including 539 this season. Former Gopher Katrien DeDecker holds both the single season and career records, landing 739 kills in 1996 to boost her career total to 2,300.
“I didn’t even know about it until (former Gopher Sarah Pearman) told me about it at our last home match,” Branagh said.
Proud Parents
Minnesota (17-12 overall, 7-11 in the Big Ten) ranks 12th in the nation’s attendance record, averaging 1,647 fans per match. Even outside of the Sports Pavilion, the Gophers have a faithful following.
Defensive specialist Ali Berres received the loudest reception at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday as Northwestern honored its seniors. The freshman’s parents were the instigators, piling 30-plus people into minivans and making the trip from Naperville, Ill. Berres’ backers witnessed the team’s second road win in ten attempts, as the Gophers won 3-0.
“It’s extremely gratifying to have the families behind the program and see them reach out to extended family and friends,” Hebert said.
Sophomore middle blocker Heather Baxter’s parents have traveled to every match, including stops in Washington, D.C. and Maryland.
But even though Baxter’s parents racked up miles traveling cross-country, freshman outside hitter Yvonne Wichert’s parents deserve the most miles traveled award. The couple is flying in from Germany this weekend to watch the Gophers’ final conference homestand.
“There is an extremely warm feeling around the program,” Hebert said. “As a coach I’m appreciative of that.”