Struggles continue for Gophers

Minnesota’s losing streak now stands at seven games – the worst since 1990.

by Paul Cordes

Going into this weekend on a five-game losing streak, senior middle blocker Jessy Jones said she was committed to creating a belief in her team.

But this weekend isn’t making her job any easier.

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What: Volleyball
when: 6 p.m., Wednesday
where: Iowa Sports Pavilion

The Gophers (12-10 overall, 5-7 Big Ten) extended their losing streak to seven games, the worst since 1990.

Minnesota had close to no chance Friday night against No. 2 Penn State as the Nittany Lady Lions swept with ease. The Gophers demanding a two-game-to-nothing lead Saturday night was not enough as Ohio State won the final three to complete the comeback.

Jones, who is the only remaining player of the 2004 Minnesota team that played in the national championship game of the NCAA tournament, said she has taken it upon herself to try and instill in her team a belief that the season is not lost.

“We have no choice,” a disheartened Jones said after Saturday night’s loss, “We can either roll over and die or stand up and try to do something different.

“We’re obviously down but we’re still trying to believe. At times we haven’t and we’ve lost. We have to chip away at the negativity and the doubt to get back to winning.”

And trying to get back to winning couldn’t have been more difficult against a team coach Mike Hebert said is possibly the best team in the country.

Penn State (20-2, 12-0) cruised Friday night, making incredible saves that could have easily been Minnesota points had the athleticism of the Nittany Lions not been so widespread.

Sophomore outside hitter Megan Hodge racked up 19 kills on .607 hitting percentage to sink the Gophers.

“That’s why we recruited her,” Hebert said after the game, in reference to earlier attempts to bring her to Minnesota.

But Minnesota had a role reversal Saturday night at Williams Arena.

The Gophers looked to be in control and put the Buckeyes (11-10, 5-7) down two games to none and were up by three points as late as 20-17 in game three.

But Ohio State simply refused to go away and the Gophers couldn’t find a way to send the Buckeyes home with a loss.

“We got tentative, we got lazy and we really just lost the edge in terms of confidence,” Hebert said. “It’s getting old talking about winning statistical battles but losing matches.

“And when that happens, it usually means we’ve not done a good job with confidence.”

Freshman middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer led Minnesota with the program’s first triple-double since Nov. 26, 2005 with 12 kills, 10 digs and 10 blocks.

However, the category not even Gibbemeyer could help her team advance in was the tally in the win category.

Freshman Brooke Dieter, who recorded 12 kills and 16 digs herself, said she continues to treat these games as learning experiences.

“It’s great to be able to learn from this,” she said. “Most of us aren’t used to being on losing teams so we’re really learning how to deal with these losses.”

And it’s not just the freshmen who are learning from this.

Jones cited the fact that the Gophers did not win the Big Ten in 2004 when they played for a National Championship and she’s confident this year is not a waste.

“I’ve never had to do this before,” Jones said about her efforts to lead her team out of its slump, “I’ve never learned so much in my first three seasons here as I have this year. I really believe this season can work for us.”