As coach of the 14th ranked volleyball team in the nation, Minnesota’s Mike Hebert understands he has a wealth of talent at his disposal.
Where he plays that talent is something Hebert is still working on.
Early in the season Hebert is experimenting with different line-ups in order to have a more diversified attack.
Hebert’s formula worked well on Wednesday night as the Gophers swept Marquette (30-13, 30-21, and 30-16) at the Sports Pavilion to win their third straight match.
“It’s not much of an experiment when you play that well,” Hebert said. “So far, so good. I don’t anticipate that we will play poorly with any of the lineups we put out there.
“We decided to serve aggressively tonight. When you serve tough the opponent gets back on their heels. I think that was true all night of Marquette.”
Hebert made two position changes from the lineup he deployed last weekend, continuing his experiment. While lineups are not certain, Cassie Busse and Erin Lorenzen each made strong bids for starting roles against the Eagles.
Busse moved from the opposite hitter to the left side while Lorenzen was inserted into the lineup at the opposite hitter position.
Busse paced the Minnesota offense with 11 kills as the Gophers outhit the Eagles .477 to .000. Minnesota opened the night hitting at a .708 clip in the first game.
Lorenzen, in her first start of the season, tied for second on the team in kills (nine) and hit .643 for the match.
“My goal was to go out and be aggressive,” Lorenzen said. “I think I did that.”
In the first game, Minnesota jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a strong service game by Berg. A net violation ended the run, yet Marquette never challenged afterward as the Gophers won by 17 points, their largest margin of the match.
Marquette provided its biggest challenge to Minnesota in the second game as they took an early lead. Yet, the Eagles never led by more than three points before the momentum shifted in the Gophers’ favor.
With the score 13-10, Marquette, the teams traded volleys during a long run ending with a block by Stephanie Hagen and Kathy Tilson. The play took the life out of Marquette, as the Gophers continued on a 14-4 run and never looked back winning 30-21.
“The team stabilized at about 10 points,” Hebert said. “I think they understood they needed to get themselves back under control.”
The trend continued in the third game as Minnesota got off to a 4-0 start en route to a 30-16 win to complete the sweep.
Concerned about his team’s blocking after last weekend’s matches, Hebert was pleased with the overall performance of his team.
“We blocked better because we served so well,” Hebert said. “There was a significant improvement in our block positioning. Both of those things added up to a good blocking night for us.”
Hebert will have the opportunity to further evaluate his team as the Gophers play a total of five games in the span of a week. Minnesota continues play this weekend with four matches in the San Diego Invitational.
Brian Hall covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]