No. 20 Gophers refocusing on fundamentals

Lindsay Guentzel

The 20th-ranked Gophers are getting down to the nitty-gritty this week, focusing on the basics before taking on No. 6 Illinois and Wisconsin this weekend at home. The Gophers struggled last weekend, dropping both matches on the road against No. 9 Penn State and unranked Ohio State âÄî dropping them to 4-4 in the Big Ten conference. âÄúWeâÄôre doing a fundamental review,âÄù head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúWeâÄôre getting our legs back under us. Frankly, just trying to do the simple things, the little things. WeâÄôre still trying to recover from injuries as well.âÄù Luckily, the injuries are nothing to worry about in the long run. TheyâÄôre aggravated injuries, Hebert said, that will hopefully only keep players out of practice and not their upcoming matches. âÄúThe long road experience has really taken a lot of energy out of the team,âÄù he said. âÄúThis is a week of recovery and fundamental work in practice to see if we can regain the form we had a little bit earlier in the season.âÄù The return of senior Lauren Gibbemeyer will certainly help. The middle blocker returned to the court for the first time last weekend since injuring her wrist Sept. 4. Gibbemeyer notched 11 kills and two blocks against Penn State and seven kills against Ohio State. âÄú[Gibbemeyer] is a huge key to our team, and having her back is really going to help us do well this weekend,âÄù junior Stephanie Nucci said. GibbemeyerâÄôs return couldnâÄôt come at a better time. The Gophers are facing their biggest challenge in the Big Ten on Friday, hosting an Illini team tied for first in the Big Ten at 7-1 in conference play. âÄúI think Illinois is peaking right now with the group of players theyâÄôve had together for a few years,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúWe canâÄôt wait to get them here in our building.âÄù Given the marked home-court advantage across the Big Ten this year, an upset is feasible. All four of MinnesotaâÄôs conference losses have come on the road, as well as IllinoisâÄô only loss. âÄúYou canâÄôt replace playing at home,âÄù Nucci said. âÄúYou have fans rooting for you, and youâÄôre playing in your gym, the court you play on everyday. I think we are going into this weekend much more comfortable playing on our home court.âÄù