Gophers top Northern Iowa

Minnesota ran off its fourth consecutive victory Tuesday against the Panthers.

Matt Anderson

After Tuesday night’s match, Minnesota volleyball coach Mike Hebert listed problems his team needed to rectify.

Almost as an afterthought, he named one positive from the match in Rochester, Minn.: His Gophers defeated Northern Iowa in straight games.

Minnesota beat the Panthers 30-21, 31-29 and 30-25 in front of an announced crowd of 1,350 at the University Center.

Although he took solace in the fact that his team won, Hebert said he was not happy with the on-court performance of his team against the Panthers.

“We were way out of sync offensively,” he said. “Our passing broke down at times. Our setting was erratic. We just didn’t have what I would call a smooth evening on the court.”

After a relatively easy 30-21 win in game one, the Gophers scuffled some early in game

2. Minnesota fell down by scores of 5-0 and 8-1 in the second game, due in large part to the service game of Northern Iowa.

The Gophers evened the score at 12, and trailing 25-23, were able to pull out the game 31-29 due in large part to Panthers’ hitting errors. Five of Minnesota’s final seven points in the game came on Northern Iowa errors.

In game 3, the Gophers coasted to a relatively easy win to seal the match, leading for all of the game’s last two-thirds after breaking a 10-10 tie.

Despite logging a hitting percentage over .200 in the first and third games of the match, Hebert said he is still worried about the offensive rhythm and rotation of players on his team.

“We’re still evaluating people and trying to figure out how we play best with the combinations on the court,” Hebert said. “And so that’s the thing that is creating the most anxiety in me right now, is trying to settle on a lineup.”

However anxious Hebert may be, junior middle blocker Meredith Nelson, who was second on the team with 10 kills Tuesday, said integrating new players into the Gophers’ lineup was a positive from the contest.

“We got to see some different outside hitters that we haven’t seen before,” Nelson said. “And we got to see them in more than just the limited roles that they have been playing.”

Still, Hebert said he hoped to iron out his playing rotation by the time Minnesota opens the Big Ten schedule Sept. 23 at No. 13 Wisconsin.

The Gophers play one event in the interim. They will travel to Texas for the TCU tournament on Friday and Saturday.

“Our tournament this weekend in Dallas gives us three matches,” Hebert said. “And that will have to do it, because we start the Big Ten right after that. And we open up at Wisconsin, which will be a pretty severe test.”

The step up in competition Big Ten play represents is something senior libero Paula Gentil said she welcomes.

“I can’t wait to play some of the girls that we know and have been playing against for the past three years,” she said. “The Big Ten is just so cool because every night, it’s so competitive that you have to do your best to win every night. We can’t do what we did tonight and still win in the Big Ten.”