Berg reaches assist mark in deflating weekend sweep

by Brian Hall

Receiving a phone call from former teammate Ali Berres to commend her on 5,000th assist was bittersweet for Minnesota’s Lindsey Berg.

Berg earned the assist on a Cassie Busse kill during the second game of Friday’s match against Michigan State. She became the 12th player, and fourth Gopher, in Big Ten history to achieve the mark.

Yet No. 17 Minnesota was swept by the unranked Spartans (30-17, 30-25, 30-27).

“I got a call to congratulate me,” Berg said. “But in that case, I would rather the call be to congratulate us on a win.”

Following Friday’s loss at Michigan State, the Gophers were defeated by Michigan 3-1 (30-26, 30-27, 26-30, 30-27) on Saturday night.

Minnesota lost six of seven games played to drop its record to 8-4 overall and 2-2 in the conference.

“Friday, we didn’t play well at all,” Gophers coach Mike Hebert said. “We had a breakdown in our passing, and the defense wasn’t there. Saturday, I thought we played well.

“Our opponents played flawlessly. We ran into two hot teams.”

It was the first time in three seasons Minnesota had lost consecutive Big Ten road matches.

This season, home teams have a record of 13-3 in conference matches.

The Gophers, who had led the Big Ten in hitting percentage, suffered a significant drop in hitting while continuing to suffer defensive lapses.

Hitting .322 going into the weekend matches, Minnesota hit .150 and .243 against the Spartans and Wolverines, respectively, and got outdug 50-33 by Michigan.

“Defense is still the weakest part of our team,” Hebert said. “That’s what we have been practicing on and will continue to practice until we get better.”

Against the Spartans, Busse was the only Gophers hitter to register double figures in kills with 10 while Stephanie Hagen was the only Gopher to hit over .300 for the match.

“They really put up a solid block on us,” freshman Erin Martin said. “We were able to hit through the block sometimes, but they played good defense.”

While the Gophers outhit the Wolverines, Minnesota suffered from letdowns in other areas of the game including the troubled defense.

“Michigan had a very quick middle attack,” Berg said. “When you have a good middle attack, it doesn’t allow you any prep time to set up for the dig.”

Another Gophers strong suit failed against the Wolverines as they committed 16 service errors compared to six for Michigan.

Martin led the team with a career high 14 kills against the Wolverines.

Looking past her milestone, the senior captain Berg instead chose to focus on the profound disappointment of the losses.

“We struggled to say the least,” Berg said. “Passing, everything, our whole game went down. They outdug us and outblocked us.

“I think our confidence was really hurt this weekend.”