Minnesota bounces back with a pair of home wins

volleyball 11-07

Tony Morimoto

volleyball 11-07

Last year, a 1-3 road trip might have sent the Minnesota volleyball team into a downward spiral. This year, it just doesnâÄôt seem to phase the 17th-ranked Gophers. Minnesota took care of business at home this weekend, overpowering No. 18 Purdue and No. 16 Illinois with an air of confidence. The Gophers (20-6 overall, 10-4 Big Ten) swept the Boilermakers on Friday, 25-21, 25-21, 25-15, and outlasted the Illini on Saturday, winning in five: 25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 21-25, 15-10. âÄúThis weekend was definitely a confidence booster,âÄù sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer said. âÄúItâÄôs tough playing on the road for so long, and it felt really good to come home. The energy was up and the confidence was up almost automatically.âÄù Minnesota displayed some of that extra energy almost immediately on Friday, moving well defensively away from the ball to scoop up tipped balls and blocks. Junior libero Christine Tan led the team with 21 digs, while freshman defensive specialist Jessica Granquist and senior setter Rachel Hartmann each added 9 digs, holding Purdue to a .138 hitting percentage. âÄúI think weâÄôre talented in the back row,âÄù Tan said. âÄúThe last few matches we were upset that we werenâÄôt winning the digging battles, so I guess we took it to Purdue tonight and made up for it.âÄù Hartmann, meanwhile, controlled a well-balanced and efficient offense on MinnesotaâÄôs side of the net, spreading the ball around to give five different players seven or more kills . Hartmann was also involved with the attack process this weekend, collecting a total of 10 kills in two matches, as MinnesotaâÄôs offense showed off many new looks. Hartmann dumped the ball more often, junior outside hitter Pamela Luiz moved to the left side and found success over there, and the GophersâÄô regular outside hitters in senior Kyla Roehrig and sophomore Brook Dieter took swings from both the left and right side. âÄúWe started getting very predictable on the road trip, and it was easy for other teams to load up their blocks against us,âÄù coach Mike Hebert said . âÄúThis weekend, Rachel was really on task as far as distributing the ball. âÄúWhat happens, usually, is that the go-to hitters get the balls that are put in the best positions. The non-priority hitters, if you want to call them that, get the garbage sets. We reversed that, and gave those players an opportunity to score.âÄù The Boilermakers (20-6, 9-5) made some plays defensively to prolong points, but the Gophers just played too well, hitting .280 in the three-set win. Illinois (19-6, 10-4) presented more of a challenge, as sophomore outside hitter Laura DeBruler put up a 29-kill effort, pacing the Illini with the Gophers. Minnesota took a 2-1 lead, like it did in Indiana last week, but hit .191 in set four, the GophersâÄô worst percentage of the night, to hand the set over to Illinois, forcing a fifth set. But unlike Indiana, Minnesota came out strong in the final set, hitting .474 to cruise to the 15-10 win. âÄúWe didnâÄôt have a good start in that fourth set, and that was basically the difference,âÄù Gibbemeyer said. âÄúIn the fifth game, we decided we werenâÄôt going to give Illinois a chance to make it a close set, and we went out and finished it off.âÄù