Finally! Gophers get much-needed win

After dropping seven straight games, Minnesota swept Iowa, a win that could put them back on course for the postseason.

by Mark Heise

The losing streak is over.

Minnesota’s volleyball team ended its seven-match losing skid Wednesday night, sweeping Iowa 30-20, 30-27, 30-25 at the Sports Pavilion for the team’s second win in the month of October.

“It seemed as though we trusted each other and communicated better,” coach Mike Hebert said. “And obviously, it was great to win a match.”

The Gophers (13-10 overall, 6-7 Big Ten) started the game very strong, using a short serving attack to neutralize Iowa’s offense, and were extremely successful in each point’s first attack to compile 17 kills as a team.

Freshman middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer led the way with eight kills, allowing Minnesota to jump out to a 15-3 lead at one point.

The Gophers’ hot streak eventually cooled down, as Minnesota made its first attack error with the score 15-4. Iowa tried to make a comeback, finding success with five tip-kills, but the Gophers still managed to win game one handily, 30-20.

Minnesota hit the ball even better in the second game, but on the other hand, so did Iowa. The Gophers followed junior outside hitter Katie Vatterrodt’s six kills to combine for 23 in the game, but the Hawkeyes (9-15, 1-12) cut their 12 errors from the first game in half, allowing them to stay in the game, even taking a brief lead at 25-26.

Freshman outside hitter Brook Dieter provided a spark for the Gophers, collecting a block and two kills from the right side in the final parts of game two, helping Minnesota to a 30-27 win and a two-game lead heading into the locker room.

“We just wanted to keep our confidence high and we said in the locker room that this team (Iowa) was a good team,” junior setter Rachel Hartmann said. “We knew we had to keep working on digging their shots, and we did just that.”

As the third game began, it initially looked as if the Gophers were ready to call it a night, as three attack errors and three serving errors handed Iowa an early 8-13 lead.

But Minnesota found its second wind, as junior outside hitter Kyla Roehrig, after sitting on the bench for game one and most of game two, came through with five kills and a block. The Gophers were able to retake the lead and expand it to 27-22 before winning their first match since Oct. 5, 30-25.

And the celebration began. Junior Michele Wilber jumped into Dieter’s arms, while freshmen Charde Phillips and Caitlin Schneider started to dance.

“It was just great to finally have a win,” Dieter said. “We were all excited that we finally came out and proved ourselves.”

Two very positive things came out of this match for the Gophers, as Minnesota showed an offensive balance that proved to have legitimate threats on both the right and left side of the net

The other aspect that was encouraging for a team trying to slowly dig their way out of a hole and into the post-season was the Gophers’ defensive prowess, as Minnesota’s back court looked strong, showing off its athleticism and touch en route to 72 digs.

“In the past few matches, we were stutter-stepping towards the ball,” Hebert said. “Tonight the clarity of defensive responsibility was emphasized.”