Minnesota earns bit of revenge vs. Longhorns

It doesn’t count, but the Gophers beat the team that took them out of the 2009 Final Four.

Volleyball vs. Texax

Ian Larson

Volleyball vs. Texax

Aleutian Calabay

Rarely do teams have a shot at payback before the regular season even starts, but that’s exactly what happened for the Minnesota volleyball team Saturday night. The Gophers took down Texas âÄî the team that knocked them out of the NCAA tournamentâÄôs Final Four last season âÄî in the final match of the spring tournament at the Sports Pavilion. The four-set win (19-25, 30-28, 25-13, 27-25 ) essentially means nothing for the regular season, but it’s still an important victory for the Gophers. “It was a really fun experience with the whole revenge thing even though it’s not a real match and doesn’t count for anything,” Minnesota junior Hailey Cowles said. “I think just for our pride and our school and to show people that in the Final Four we didn’t play our best, and we can still hang with teams like Texas.” The matchup was also the first chance for the Gophers to showcase freshman Ashley Wittman , the 2009 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year, in front of a home crowd. Although the match against Texas was just a glorified exhibition game, Wittman appeared as though she’s ready to live up to the hype as she led Minnesota with 17 kills (unofficial). “There’s no question she’s going to be a great player,âÄù Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said. âÄúThis was her first time being in the show for the Gophers. She was pretty nervous, but there was a time in the third set that she really took over and got us over the hump, and that was nice to see.” The Gophers also had a number of returning starters playing in mid-season form. Cowles finished the night with 14 kills (unofficial), as she appears to be getting more comfortable at outside hitter following her switch from defensive specialist. Junior Lauren Gibbemeyer finished with 12 kills and five blocks and sophomore Ariana Filho had 11 kills and three blocks (unofficial). The Gophers, who finished last season ranked No. 4 , came into the tournament undefeated in their spring schedule, but lost 2-1 to both Marquette and North Dakota State earlier on Saturday. But most of the dayâÄôs focus for both players and coaches seemed to be on the Texas match. Minnesota appeared poised as they took on the Longhorns. The win certainly gives the Gophers a lot of confidence moving forward, but they also know not to become too excited before the regular season is underway. “I don’t think a lot of people take spring volleyball too seriously as far as what’s going to happen in the fall, but it will create some talk, and we’ll gain some respect for what we did,” Hebert said.