Eager but rusty, U spikers square off with Iowa

by Brian Hall

Minnesota volleyball coach Mike Hebert knows the Iowa players aren’t the only obstacle for the Gophers as they open Big Ten play at Iowa on Wednesday night.

They must also contend with the playing environment.

“The air ventilation system in Carver-Hawkeye arena circulates,” Hebert said. “There is a wind. Either you are with the wind or against the wind. The volleyball is big enough that the wind circulation affects its flight.”

Playing in front of large crowds is something Minnesota has become accustomed to at the Sports Pavilion. Yet, in the spacious Carver-Hawkeye Arena, an average of 400-500 people attend – a figure somewhat short of the arena’s 15,500 capacity.

“You can hear the radio announcers, and the people in the stands talking because it is so quiet,” Hebert said.

Despite adverse conditions, the Gophers have managed to defeat Iowa five-straight times at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and have earned 11-straight wins overall versus the Hawkeyes.

Due to the events of last Tuesday, Minnesota has not played since Sept. 8, while Iowa last played on Sept. 4.

Each team has used the time to practice, yet neither coach knows what to expect from their team after last week’s cancellations.

“Playing continuously helps you build up a competitive frame of mind, and we haven’t played in 11 days,” Hebert said. “I don’t know how people will react after an 11-day layoff.”

“I think because we are so young it gave us a chance to work on some things,” Iowa coach Rita Buck-Crockett said. “I think we are ready to go now.”

Iowa is led by senior outside hitter Sara Meyermann. She is currently leading the Big Ten in kills per game, averaging 5.71. The preseason All-Big Ten pick recorded a career high 33 kills against Southwest Missouri State in the season opener.

“She is a very versatile hitter,” Hebert said. “She will hit whatever you give her and hit it with some authority.”

With the beginning of the Big Ten season, Hebert has ended the lineup experimentation used early in the year.

“I think we know how we play best,” Hebert said. “I would like to have played the matches this past weekend because we had a couple of more things we wanted to try. But now it is conference time and you don’t really flip a coin in the conference. You go with what you think is the best card.

“This means everything. This is where it gets serious. Players are pumped, coaches get more on edge, the level of play rises. It’s a lot of fun.”

Berres leaves team

Senior Ali Berres resigned from the Minnesota volleyball team due to reoccurring injury.

Berres had played in four of the Gophers 28 games this season after returning to the team from a one-year absence.

“She had some back problems as a sophomore,” Hebert said. “With the year off she thought it was resolved. She came back and it just flared up again.

“She was in too much pain every day, it just wasn’t worth it.”

Berres did not play during her junior year so she could concentrate on school while changing majors.

Matches won’t be made up

Minnesota’s matches against Northern Iowa, Santa Clara, Mississippi and Oral Roberts, scheduled for last week, will not be made up.

Brian Hall covers volleyball and welcomes
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