Gophers fall flat on the road vs. PSU, OSU

Minnesota won zero sets en route to two losses.

Aleutian Calabay

The No. 7 Gophers volleyball team was supposed to have had everything figured out. A solid defense with an opportunistic rotating offense would be a winning formula. Or so they thought. The Gophers now find themselves in the midst of an identity crisis following two demoralizing road losses over the weekend. The Gophers first lost to No. 1 Penn State 3-0 by scores of 25-14, 25-16 and 25-17 Friday night, and then fell to Ohio State on Saturday, again in straight sets, 25-20, 25-19 and 25-15. âÄúWe never want to experience this again,âÄù Gophers head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúIt was an unprecedented disaster from beginning to end. We played horribly against Penn State and even worse against Ohio State. I donâÄôt know if it was a hangover from all the turmoil surrounding the [Brooke] Dieter episode, bad coaching or players not preparing themselves. I donâÄôt know what it was, but we just didnâÄôt get much right this weekend.âÄù Minnesota came into the weekend with high hopes, riding a three match winning streak that included a big win over No. 11 Michigan last Saturday. It appeared that Minnesota had side stepped a pair of ugly losses they suffered earlier in October to Penn State at home and Illinois on the road and had quickly moved past Dieter, a former All-American, leaving the team. The Gophers became a team that would crush opponents with junior Lauren Gibbemeyer stuffing blocks in the middle and freshman Tabitha Love and sophomore Ariana Filho smashing kills from the outside. Instead Minnesota came out completely flat in both games. Love finished the weekend with a total of eight kills and Filho finished with seven. Gibbemeyer continued to play solidly, ending with 18 kills and five blocks, but it wasnâÄôt nearly enough as the Gophers hardly remained competitive toward the end of each set. The Gophers were outplayed in nearly every statistical category all weekend long. Penn State out-hit Minnesota 0.341 to 0.011, a season low for the Gophers. Minnesota didnâÄôt fare much better against Ohio State, getting out-hit 0.294 to 0.170. âÄúWe definitly understand now that we basically defeated ourselves,âÄù Gibbemeyer said. âÄúWe realize the importance of following a game plan and sticking to what weâÄôve been working on all week. I think itâÄôs really important for us to pull together as a team and just believe in each other and that alone will carry us through.âÄù At least the Gophers can find solace in the fact that they are far from being the only team to fall harshly at the hands of the Nittany Lions. Penn StateâÄôs victory over Minnesota marks the squadâÄôs 88th-straight win, tying them with the 1971-73 UCLA menâÄôs basketball team for the fourth longest winning streak in Division I NCAA history. The Nittany Lions may not only be the best volleyball team in the country. They may be one of the best collegiate volleyball teams ever assembled. The Gophers loss to Ohio State, on the other hand, remains more difficult to handle as Minnesota was favored to win SaturdayâÄôs match and had already beaten the Buckeyes earlier this season three sets to one. Ironically, Dieter had tied a career high for kills in that match with 24 . The loss to the Buckeyes sheds more light on the flaws of the Dieter-less Gophers as they continue to look for answers to their scoring problem. SaturdayâÄôs match may have just been a continuation of the letdown the Gophers took from Penn State, but consistency has been something Minnesota has lacked all season long. ItâÄôs a problem the Gophers are going to need to solve soon if they truly intend on going deep into the NCAA tournament that starts in early December . At least timing remains on the GophersâÄô side as they now have a chance to gather themselves. Minnesota returns home next weekend as they face Indiana on Friday at 7 p.m. and Purdue on Sunday at 1 p.m.