Aces wild: Serving much improved

The Gophers nailed 25 service aces over the weekend at the Nike Invitational. They had just four aces total heading into the event.

Minnesota’s volleyball team took a turn for the better this weekend in more ways than one.

Not only did the Gophers win two of three matches in the Nike Invitational tournament, but the team’s serving was much improved from its first weekend of play.

Coach Mike Hebert thinks the serving has made a big difference.

“Our goal is to be an aggressive serving team,” Hebert said. “We’re not going to be mad if you miss Ö we’ve got to learn how to be aggressive.”

The Gophers’ focus on its serving this weekend was noticeable. Led by middle blocker and All-American Cassie Busse, who hit 15 aces on the weekend, the team had a much-improved serving weekend on the whole.

In Minnesota’s three matches, it recorded 25 aces total. At the Hawaiian Airlines tournament Aug. 29-31, a 0-3 trip, the Gophers had only five aces through three matches.

Junior outside hitter Erin Martin was also a big contributor in turning the team serving woes around. She complimented Busse well, notching five aces of her own.

“Cassie and I like to battle to see who can get the most aces in the game,” Martin said jokingly.

The serving effort team-wide in Honolulu paled in comparison to the output at home over the weekend. In turn, it affected the entire team.

“In Hawaii we’d be down a couple of points and get down ourselves,” Martin said.

In addition to the small number of service aces, the team faulted many times, posting 37 service errors.

“We’re going to make errors,” Hebert said. “But, you notice how tentative receivers on the other side are, it kind of wears on you over the course of a whole match.”

And wearing on opponents’ receivers it’s done. The Gophers were able to fire over nine aces Saturday against Marquette. They also tallied nine aces Friday against Kansas.

Martin and Busse combined for seven aces in the match against the Jayhawks.

Serving was the team’s primary weapon over the weekend, but they also received nice performances by junior outside hitter Trisha Bratford and freshman middle blocker Meredith Nelson.

“She’s doing wonderful,” Hebert said of Nelson. “She’s a very poised young lady.”

Bratford compiled an impressive 44 kills, while Nelson contributed with 26 kills and 13 blocks.

Bowman sees time, signs

Freshman Kelly Bowman was also thrown into the mix this weekend. She notched five kills and three digs.

The Osseo, Minn., native had strong home support as signs with her name on it appeared in the crowd at the Sports Pavilion throughout the weekend.

All-tournament team

The Gophers had two players take home all-tournament honors. Cassie Busse and Trisha Bratford were each named to the all-tournament team.

Kansas also had two all-tournament selections of its own, including tournament MVP Janaina Correa.