McCutcheon steers clear of border battle hype

Wisconsin hasn’t fared well against ranked teams this season.

by Megan Ryan

The Gophers volleyball team will meet Wisconsin for the first time this season Wednesday at the Sports Pavilion.

While the football team will travel to the Badger State for a highly anticipated matchup this weekend, the volleyball team is avoiding creating too much hype around the border battle.

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon said he hasn’t really gotten into the rivalry.

“I think once you start placing special significance on one opponent versus another, it can be a little bit dangerous,” McCutcheon said.

Junior middle blocker Tori Dixon said the Gophers won’t attach any special meaning to the match.

“I wouldn’t say there’s like an extra fuel [to win],” Dixon said. “It’s a border battle, so it’ll be fun no matter what.”

Dixon, a native Minnesotan, is familiar with the classic rivalries — not only with the Badgers but also with Iowa.

However, senior setter Mia Tabberson said it is different for every player. She said she personally loves playing Purdue since she is from Indiana.

“If you beat those teams that you really want to just check off your list, then it feels better at the end,” Tabberson said. “It’s like, ‘Ah, yes. That was personal.’”

Beating unranked Wisconsin shouldn’t be a problem for the Gophers. The Badgers are 15-6 overall but only 3-5 in the Big Ten conference. All of their conference losses have been against ranked teams.

No. 10 Minnesota has a 15-4 overall record and a 6-2 conference record. The Gophers’ only conference losses have come from No. 1 Penn State and No. 4 Nebraska.

The Gophers defeated the Badgers last season in five sets in Madison, Wis., and in three sets in Minneapolis.

But McCutcheon said his team can’t judge Wisconsin by past performances.

“Once you start getting into predictions of how teams might be based on what they look like on paper, it gets to be a slippery slope,” McCutcheon said.

Dixon said the match will be the Gophers’ to lose.

“If we come out and play our game and just do what we’re supposed to do and what we know how to do, then we should beat them,” Dixon said. “We should not have a lot of problems beating them.”

However, Dixon said Wisconsin can’t be underestimated since it beat then-reigning NCAA champions Penn State in five sets last season.

Wisconsin’s senior middle blocker Mary Ording was there for the upset. She earned the Badgers’ only Big Ten weekly award this season Sept. 10 when she was named Defensive Player of the Week.

Tabberson and Ording are best friends after playing club volleyball together in Indiana. But Tabberson said there aren’t many trade secrets she can share with her team that it won’t find during normal scouting.

Dixon said she’s played with or against a few Wisconsin players from Minnesota in her youth career. She said it’s an advantage to know their general playing tendencies.

While the rivalry may not be as heated, Tabberson said having a coach new to the Big Ten makes everything fresh.

“Every experience with Hugh is new,” Tabberson said. “We’re kind of redefining the experience.”