Gophers hope to prove what rest of season has in store

Two home matches offer No. 12 Minnesota a chance at redemption.

Aleutian Calabay

The big question surrounding the No. 12 Minnesota volleyball team this weekend is which team is going to show up: Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. The Gophers (17-7 overall, 8-4 Big Ten) have shown this season that they are capable of playing as well as any team in the country, yet they have also proven that they can be a very beatable team as well. Minnesota gets a chance to show its true colors this weekend at the Sports Pavilion against Indiana on Friday at 7 p.m. and Purdue on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Gophers have become such a streaky team, especially during the Big Ten season that itâÄôs difficult to assess just how good âÄî or bad âÄî this team is. MinnesotaâÄôs 5-0 start in the Big Ten boosted the Gophers to No. 5 in the rankings as they hardly lost a set at the beginning of conference play. The team was looking like it was Final Four bound. Then back to back losses to No. 1 Penn State and now-No. 5 Illinois, despite strong matches with both teams, began raising questions about the GophersâÄô ability to win against top opponents. Minnesota answered back with wins over Michigan State and then-No. 11 Michigan, stating that this team can win a big match. Then a very different Gophers team came out last weekend and was completely crushed on the road against Penn State and Ohio State. Now the Gophers must find a quick path to get back on track with only eight matches remaining in the regular season. âÄúWeâÄôre going to do what we always do: go to practice,âÄù Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said . âÄúWe have to rehearse on how to be more competitive. We have to practice doing the things that lead to winning, and we just didnâÄôt do many of them last weekend.âÄù Timing may well be in MinnesotaâÄôs favor as the team gets ready to play Indiana (14-12, 3-9) and Purdue (11-12, 3-9), two teams the Gophers have already beaten in straight sets this season. Both teams are currently in slumps of their own. Indiana is on a five-match losing streak, and Purdue has lost four in a row entering the weekend. ThatâÄôs hardly to say that either team will be a pushover as each squad has taken four matches to five sets in the Big Ten. Just a few opportune points for either team could have drastically improved their records. The losing streak also makes Indiana and Purdue two teams hungry to get back in the win column. âÄúAbsolutely they are dangerous teams to play right now,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúPurdue and Indiana are right there. TheyâÄôre both just a heartbeat away, and these are both good teams.âÄù The Gophers also know not to take anything for granted in the Big Ten where just about any team can beat anyone else in any given match. âÄúBoth teams are very good, and with them knowing that weâÄôre struggling right now, theyâÄôre going to come in with a lot of confidence hoping to catch us off guard,âÄù junior Hailey Cowles said. âÄúBut weâÄôre going to be ready to bounce back and prove that we are still a very good team.âÄù