One weekend left to iron out the wrinkles

Matt Anderson

Minnesota’s volleyball team is ranked fifth in the country and has a record of 7-1, with the one defeat a five-game loss at the hands of No. 1 Nebraska.

But to hear coach Mike Hebert tell it – even after a straight games win against Northern Iowa on Tuesday – the Gophers still have a lot of work to do to get where he thinks they should be.

This weekend is the last opportunity for on-court improvement before the Big Ten schedule starts tonight and Saturday in the Fort Worth Plaza Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas. The Gophers take on Campbell tonight and play Maine and the tournament’s host, Texas Christian, on Saturday.

Hebert said the biggest thing Minnesota needs to do this weekend is to set a more concrete playing rotation than they’ve had earlier this season.

“By this time in the season, I was hoping we would have one settled on,” Hebert said. “But we’re still evaluating people and trying to figure out how we play the best with the combinations on the court.”

In the match against Northern Iowa, Hebert rotated in different outside hitters, looking for the right blend of players on the court.

Kyla Roehrig, Meghan Cumpston and Malama Peniata all saw time in the position. And after this weekend, Hebert hopes to be able to separate wheat from the chaff among that group.

However, junior middle blocker Meredith Nelson said it was beneficial to see all those players at the spot Tuesday.

Nelson’s take differed from Hebert’s on what Minnesota needs to improve upon most in Fort Worth. According to her, the Gophers’ inconsistency has caused the biggest problems so far this year.

“One match, we’ll be good at digging, and one match we’ll be good in counterattack, and one match we’ll be good at blocking,” she said. “But I think really what we need to do is work on putting them all together and bringing the good times all together in the same match.”

Despite everything the team says it needs to improve, team members say they’re confident about how they have progressed early in the season.

“I think we are ahead of where I thought, or the staff thought, we would be at this point,” senior libero Paula Gentil said. “So, we’re just going to keep working hard and getting better.”

Nelson said this weekend will prove beneficial for a team with lofty aspirations.

“We’re excited to get going in the Big Ten season,” she said. “And I think after this weekend, we’ll be ready to go.”