Gophers win pair of border battles

Lauren Gibbemeyer became the sixth Minnesota player with 1,000 kills and 400 blocks.

by Aleutian Calabay

The No. 13 Minnesota volleyball team continues its efforts to finish the Big Ten season the same way it started: winning big and often. The Gophers continued their upswing of momentum over the weekend with two road sweeps over Iowa and Wisconsin. Minnesota first routed Iowa in straight sets Friday night by scores of 25-13, 25-13 and 28-26 . The Gophers then handled the Badgers on Sunday in three sets, 25-11, 25-21 and 25-22 . The wins continue MinnesotaâÄôs positive push toward the end of the regular season. The Gophers are now on a four-match winning streak, all of which have come in straight sets. âÄúWe played with a lot of confidence,âÄù Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúWeâÄôre kind of getting our second wind right now, and itâÄôs never easy winning on the road, but we managed to make it look very efficient.âÄù While the Gophers continue to collect wins, junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer continues to move up in the Gophers record book. With her first kill against Iowa, Gibbemeyer became just the sixth Minnesota player to ever collect 1,000 kills and 400 blocks in a career . Gibbemeyer finished the weekend leading the Gophers with 24 total kills and 15 blocks, including a career-high 12 blocks against Wisconsin. âÄú[Gibbemeyer] has to be one of the best, if not the best middle blocker to ever play at Minnesota.âÄù Hebert said. âÄúSheâÄôs developed the ability to play at the same level every time out, very consistently playing at a high level.âÄù Freshman Tabitha Love also had a solid weekend, collecting 19 total kills, including a 15-kill effort against Iowa. Sophomore Ariana Filho and freshman Katherine Harms each collected 13 total kills, and junior Hailey Cowles finished with 10 kills to go along with 13 digs. Senior setter Taylor Carico kept the offense flowing with 69 assists. The Gophers jumped out to large leads of 12-5 and 17-8 in the first two sets against Iowa and cruised to easy set wins in each. Iowa took a 14-8 lead in the third set, but the Gophers bounced back by winning 13 of the next 19 points to take a 21-20 lead. The Hawkeyes fought off three match points, but Minnesota would prevail as a kill and block by Gibbemeyer gave the Gophers the win. The Gophers came out with the same effort against Wisconsin as they once again jumped out to a 10-3 lead in the first set and never looked back. Minnesota took a 12-9 lead in the second set, but Wisconsin kept it close. Then a 4-0 run by the Gophers late in the set pushed the score to 21-16, and they finished off the set with back to back kills by Harms. The Gophers once again pushed out to a sizeable lead in the third set, going up 16-10, but the Badgers came back to pull within 17-15. Both teams continued to battle as the score pushed to 23-22. Then a pair of kills by Carico and Love finished off the set. The wins over Iowa and Wisconsin, combined with IllinoisâÄô loss to Penn State , moves Minnesota to within one game of the Illini for second place in the Big Ten. âÄúWe definitely have momentum,âÄù Gibbemeyer said. âÄúWeâÄôre planning on winning four more straight matches and ending out the Big Ten season with a win.âÄù The Gophers finish up their four-game road trip next weekend as they take on No. 14 Michigan on Friday at 6 p.m. and then Michigan State on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.