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Minnesota stops losing skid with three-game win in Iowa

After losing two home matches this weekend, the Gophers won Wednesday night.

Minnesota’s volleyball team went back to its old 6-2 offense and tough defense, and returned to Minneapolis with a win.

The Gophers (17-5, 7-4 Big Ten) left Iowa on Wednesday night winning a three-game match, 30-24, 30-22, 30-26.

The team’s performance was sparked by a strong effort on defense from All-American libero Paula Gentil. The senior bounced back from illness and injury to register 23 digs.

“She had an outstanding match,” coach Mike Hebert said. “It was nice to welcome her back, to that level of play.”

Gentil also had help on the defensive side from junior setter Kelly Bowman and sophomore outside hitter Sarah Florian. Bowman finished with 12 digs and Florian had 10 digs on the night.

“We’ve been working a lot on defense,” Bowman said. “I think we had a lot of aggressive people hitting the floor.”

Defensively, the team had to make some early changes because Iowa came out in a 6-2 offensive system in the first two games. They normally run the 5-1.

“It was just a minor adjustment,” Bowman said. “I thought we handled the switch really well.”

Bowman said the team had the mind-set during this week to change something in order to prepare themselves for the Hawkeyes.

Junior outside hitter Meghan Cumpston said she wanted to change her hitting style to catch Iowa off guard.

“They (other teams) know the shots I’m going to hit,” Cumpston said. “I’m trying to hit the line instead of hitting across court.”

Cumpston knocked down 16 kills and hit for .297 on the night. It was her fourth double-figure kill performance of the season.

Meredith Nelson and Jessy Jones also finished with double-figure kills – 10 and 12 respectively.

“I thought our middle attack was more active than it had been in the last few matches,” Hebert said.

The Gophers out-hit Iowa .287 to .131 – a vast improvement over the hitting percentage of negative .051 they had against Penn State on Saturday.

Hebert said the strong hitting performance happened as a result of solid passing. The 6-2 system allowed the team to rotate in two setters and finish the night with 56 assists. Bowman had 30 of those passes.

“I though our passes were on the money tonight,” Bowman said.

Bowman also broke out of her hitting slump to have eight kills and lead the team with a .438 hitting percentage.

Hebert said those are some pretty good numbers from the All-American.

“Kelly Bowman was able to attack for some high numbers, and that’s what we wanted out of the 6-2 system,” Hebert said. “I think we played with some continuity.”

Cumpston said she hopes the continuity builds from this win and escalates over the rest of the season.

“So we’re just trying to take baby steps and work back up to how we were playing at the beginning of the season,” Cumpston said. “So that was kind of our goal tonight.”

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