Pair of Michigan schools comes to Sports Pavilion

Michigan and Michigan State have won one Big Ten game combined.

Mark Heise

With a strong defensive performance last weekend and a current six-game win streak, the Minnesota volleyball team has plenty of reasons to look forward to coming home this weekend.

The Gophers play their first home Big Ten match against No. 24 Michigan at 7 tonight. Minnesota then plays Michigan State at 1 p.m. Sunday at 1 p.m. Both matches are at the Sports Pavilion.

Superb at home and unbeaten in the conference, the Gophers (8-4 overall, 2-0 Big Ten) have a lot going for them in this weekend’s matchups.

Sophomore setter Rachel Hartmann talked about the team’s added confidence.

“I think it was a good start to the Big Ten,” she said. “It should give us some extra confidence, especially coming to play at home.”

Minnesota faces tough competition in the home stand, but might have caught the Wolverines at the right time. Following a 13-0 start to the season, Michigan slipped last weekend, losing at home to Indiana – the team picked to finish last in the Big Ten. The Wolverines then suffered a loss to 11th-ranked Purdue, dropping to 0-2 in the conference.

Michigan (13-2, 0-2) committed 74 hitting errors those two matches, and consistently hit into opposing blockers, as Purdue and Indiana combined to average nearly 19 blocks per match against the Wolverines.

Despite these problems, coach Mike Hebert said, he didn’t want to underestimate Michigan.

“I’m not willing to buy the fact that they’re struggling at this point,” he said. “Michigan has always given us a tough battle, and I don’t expect anything different.”

Despite the Wolverines’ recent troubles, junior outside hitter Katie Bruzdzinski has been strong all season, averaging 4.7 kills per game and breaking out for 25 kills and 14 digs last Friday against Indiana.

According to the polls, Michigan State (10-2, 1-1) should be the worse of the two teams, but the Spartans’ recent play quickly dispels that theory.

Boasting 10 wins already, the Spartans beat Indiana last week, unlike the Wolverines. Michigan State also went to the wire with No. 11 Purdue, losing the match in five games.

Junior outside hitter Katie Johnson had a huge day against Purdue Sept. 22, recording an impressive 35 kills on 71 attempts.

Johnson leads her team with an average of 5.1 kills per

game this season, followed by fellow junior outside hitter Ashley Schatzle. Schatzle is averaging 4.4 kills per game with 1.9 digs.

For Minnesota to win this weekend, the offense will need to improve from last week.

Hebert said that the defense carried the team through a tough offensive weekend and stressed the fact that the Gophers still need to find a way to get the offense and defense working well on the same night.

Sophomore outside hitter Kyla Roehrig also commented on the need for some offensive improvement.

“We need to get some work in hitting with our setters,” she said. “Our offense didn’t really connect last weekend, and so I think that needs to be our focus as we prepare for this weekend.”