Gophers suffer first home loss to North Carolina

The level of competition for the Minnesota volleyball team wasnâÄôt as high as it was against California a week ago, but it did finally cost the Gophers their first home loss of the season. Minnesota (10-2 overall) managed to survive its ailment through the first two matches, as it overpowered TCU in four sets Friday at the Sports Pavilion, then swept Winthrop on Saturday. But it caught up to the Gophers on Saturday night as the team trailed in most sets before finally losing to an upstart North Carolina team in five. âÄúI thought North Carolina played a terrific match,âÄù coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúBut on our side of the net, we were uncharacteristically sloppy. I donâÄôt know whether we were tired, distracted or complacent; something happened and we just never got on track.âÄù The Gophers out-hit TCU .288 to .163 in what began as an offensive match to start the tournament. TCU (12-2) hit .258 over the first two sets, but couldnâÄôt match up against MinnesotaâÄôs hot-hitting left-side duo in senior Kyla Roehrig and sophomore Brook Dieter. In those first two sets, Roehrig hit a scalding .562 while collecting 10 of her match-high 19 kills, while Dieter added nine kills and a .389 hit percentage. The Horned Frogs used an aggressive serving attack to cool off Minnesota in the third set, collecting three aces en route to their only win of the match. But the Gophers were able to adjust, and finished the fourth set strong to win 25-20, 25-20, 21-25, 25-14. âÄúRachel [Hartmann] did a great job distributing the ball and reading the defense,âÄù Roehrig said. âÄúShe gave us good matchups and at the same time set good balls to hit.âÄù Minnesota used the match against Winthrop as an opportunity to play some of the reserves, and tried to rest the starters. Winthrop (3-9) put up a bigger fight than expected, however, and the Gophers ended up using 12 of their 13 players to finish off the Eagles, 25-22, 25-11, 28-26. Junior libero Christine Tan recorded 22 digs, 14 of which came in the third set, and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer contributed 19 kills. Gibbemeyer put up 10 kills in the third set alone, with Minnesota in danger of losing the set, and finished the match with a solo block as well. âÄúSheâÄôs our most flamboyant competitor,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúSheâÄôs a gutsy player, and she can be extraordinary at times.âÄù Having lost to TCU in a close five-set match, North Carolina (5-6) immediately looked to be a threat for the Gophers as well. True to form, the Tar Heels jumped out to leads in both of the first two sets, forcing the Gophers to attempt comebacks from 17-22 in both sets. Minnesota managed the comeback in the first but lost the second, as left-side hitters Dieter and Roehrig were held to a combined .077 hit percentage. The Gophers managed to stay ahead to win the third set, but fell back into having to attempt comebacks in the final two sets, losing the match. âÄúWe always try to focus on getting to eight first, and we struggled with that,âÄù Tan said. âÄúAnd then by starting off badly, it felt like we were always trying to catch up.âÄù Gibbemeyer finished the match with 19 kills and seven blocks, while Tan collected 39 digs, including her 1,000th-career dig. As a team, Minnesota finished with a .125 hit percentage, committing a season-high 39 hitting errors.