Minnesota looks to avoid block party at Williams

Robert Mews

It’s been 10 years since the Indiana volleyball team won a match in Minneapolis. Saturday at Williams Arena, Minnesota’s volleyball team will try to continue that streak against a very young Hoosiers squad.

The Gophers (17-5, 7-4 Big Ten) will play in Williams for the first time this year. Last year, the team had a school-record crowd of 10,927 in its match at Williams.

Indiana (9-13, 2-8 Big Ten) already has faced Minnesota this season in Bloomington, Ind., a match it lost in three games, 30-23, 30-26, 30-24.

Coach Mike Hebert said he thinks that if their 10 freshman didn’t make “young-type” errors in that match, the Hoosiers would have played a much tighter match. Indiana made 20 attack errors in that match.

“If they settle down, and those players have matured at all, then I’m very leery of that team,” Hebert said. “They can play well when they want.”

Offensively, the Hoosiers aren’t playing well. They rank in the bottom part of the conference in three offensive categories – hitting percentage, assists and kills..

“They’re going to be attacking us,” junior middle blocker Meredith Nelson said, “because they’re so young and they have the energy and that fire.”

Hoosiers freshman outside hitter Erica Short leads the Hoosiers with 3.67 kills per game. Freshman setter Laura Holm leads the team and is eighth in the conference with 10.85 assist per game.

“They don’t know that they’re supposed to win certain games,” senior libero Paula Gentil said about Indiana’s youth. “So they come out every time, and they’ll play as hard as they can.”

Minnesota at times this season has had trouble with good blocking teams. Penn State had 14.5 blocks against Minnesota last weekend. The Hoosiers are second in the conference in blocks per game, with 3.09.

After two disappointing performances last weekend, the Gophers have rebounded on the defensive side as well. Part of that piece has been Paula Gentil’s strong performance against Iowa. She recorded 23 digs Wednesday against Iowa.

However, Gentil said, she has some worries for Saturday’s match; not so much because of Indiana’s offense, but because of the raised playing surface.

“I’m always scared that I’m going to fall,” Gentil said, “because if that was going to happen to anyone, it would be me.”

However, Gophers said they are excited to play in Williams.

“I’m more excited this year than last year,” Nelson said. “Last year I didn’t know what to expect Ö It’s going to be a very exciting match against Indiana.”