Gophers get needed win against Northwestern

by Lindsay Guentzel

Sitting at 6-5 in the Big Ten, the 20th-ranked Gophers needed a big win to boost their conference record âÄî and team morale âÄî before heading into the final stretch of the season.

The team got just that Friday, notching a decisive 3-1 victory over 24th-ranked Northwestern, a team the Gophers lost to Oct. 10 on the road.

Led by senior captain Lauren Gibbemeyer, the Gophers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead against Northwestern before dropping the third set 16-25.

With Northwestern leading throughout the fourth set, a match-changing fifth set was in the WildcatsâÄô sight, but Minnesota put the match away with a 9-1 run.

âÄúWe needed that very badly for our psyche,âÄù head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúWe needed a signature win to get us going again, and I think thatâÄôs what occurred [Friday].âÄù

The celebration was somewhat subdued for the Gophers, who lost junior Katherine Harms midway through the match after she injured her ankle.

Harms underwent X-rays immediately, Hebert said, and while her ankle isnâÄôt fractured, they wonâÄôt know the extent of her injury until Monday.

âÄúIt depends on how much [HarmsâÄô ankle] swells up,âÄù he said. âÄúAt this point, itâÄôs not a serious sprain.âÄù

Harms wasnâÄôt the only Minnesota player injured during FridayâÄôs match âÄî freshman Ashley Wittman cut her knee after running into the scorersâÄô table but returned to the match after receiving medical attention.

âÄúItâÄôs kind of been happening all season long, so we were kind of used to it,âÄù said senior Lauren Gibbemeyer, who missed much of the early season with a wrist injury. âÄúItâÄôs great to see us come back when faced with adversity like that.âÄù

Gibbemeyer had 14 kills and an impressive 10 blocks for the Gophers while Wittman had eight kills, 17 digs and three blocks. The team finished with a season-high 19 blocks.

âÄú[Northwestern] really puts the pressure on you, but we hung in there particularly after the injury to Harms,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúThe most pleasing thing about the evening was how we held together in the face of yet another injury, another bad break. IâÄôm very proud of the team.âÄù

The Gophers head back on the road Friday, taking on Indiana (5-7) and Purdue (6-6), two teams Minnesota beat at home earlier this season.

Currently third in the conference standings, a weekend sweep would put Minnesota at 9-5, just one win shy of tournament eligibility.

âÄúEvery possible number we can throw on our side of the platter helps come NCAA tournament time,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúAny win over a quality team like Northwestern has got to help.âÄù