Gophers win despite loss of Dieter

Minnesota beat two conference foes after losing one of its veteran leaders.

Volleyball vs. Michigan

Ian Larson

Volleyball vs. Michigan

Aleutian Calabay

The No. 9 Minnesota volleyball team faced two critical questions going into this weekendâÄôs matches. Could they still perform offensively without Brook Dieter, and could they beat a top-ranked opponent in the Big Ten? The Gophers answered both those questions with a resounding yes, first coming from behind to beat Michigan State 3-2 on Friday night by scores of 25-14, 19-25, 21-25, 25-17 and 15-9. Then they beat No. 11 Michigan in four sets Saturday at Williams Arena, 20-25, 25-19, 25-22 and 25-10. âÄúAt a time when a lot of people were talking about the struggle we were going to be facing in our program, itâÄôs awfully nice to come out here with two wins against two quality teams,âÄù Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert said. It was becoming sink or swim time for the Gophers, who have had high aspirations for this season but had been lacking a defining victory for a sense of placement in the Big Ten. The GophersâÄô (17-5 overall, 8-2 Big Ten) defeat of Michigan was the first ranked team Minnesota has beaten in the conference. The win also keeps Minnesota tied with Illinois for second place in the Big Ten. The Gophers also proved just how dangerous they can be offensively. Freshman Tabitha Love had a career-high 18 kills against Michigan State , only to better that the next night against Michigan with 19 kills. âÄúTabby Love is enjoying her coming out party,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúShe is hitting the ball with reckless abandon. She seems to be enjoying herself âĦ IâÄôm just glad sheâÄôs on our team.âÄù Love was far from the only one playing well offensively. Senior Megan Wilson had a total of 17 kills and 13 blocks on the weekend. Sophomore Ariana Filho had 20 total kills and nine blocks, while junior Lauren Gibbemeyer had a total of 19 kills and 10 blocks. MinnesotaâÄôs solid impressive numbers were set up by senior Taylor Carico, who had a total of 74 assists. Junior Hailey Cowles , DieterâÄôs replacement at outside hitter, did an outstanding job with 15 total kills to go along with 24 digs. Minnesota got off to a terrific start against Michigan. Filho had six kills in the first 11 points, as the Gophers took a 9-2 lead. Michigan went on to win the first set, but the Gophers rebounded by taking the last three, including a dominant fourth set. Minnesota entered the final set on an emotional high. After starting down 4-3, the Gophers went on a 12-1 run, continually making solid plays and taking advantage of Michigan errors. An emphatic kill by Love fittingly closed the game, as the Gophers won the set and the match 25-10. âÄúWeâÄôve been working all season that we set the tone and the emotion on the court,âÄù Filho said. âÄúThat definitely showed in set four. We went out and played hard, and we never let up even when they got a few points; we stayed strong and held our mentality.âÄù The Gophers also had the benefit of a large and vocal crowd at Williams Arena. The attendance of 7,547 was the fifth largest in school history âÄúI thought that the atmosphere was amazing,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúI think that helped carry us along and kept our momentum going as we fed off the crowd.âÄù The win over Michigan doesnâÄôt diminish the thrilling five-set victory Minnesota had over Michigan State the night before. The Gophers got off to a slow start against the Spartans, finding themselves down 7-5 in the first set. Then, MinnesotaâÄôs offense got moving as two big kills by Love tied the score. The Gophers continued from there to go on a 14-4 run. A Christine Tan service ace would finish off the set 25-14. The Spartans looked like a completely different team coming out in the second set, making a number of diving digs and keeping Minnesota off the scoreboard as they jumped out to an 8-2 lead. The Gophers fought back, winning five straight including a kill and an ace by Carico, but Michigan State answered back with a four-point run of its own to take a 15-10 lead. Love had a couple of solid late kills, but it was too little too late as the Spartans won the set 25-19. The third set was a tight battle with 16 ties in the first 32 points. The Gophers had seven consecutive one-point leads before that trend was turned over to Michigan State, who went on a run of five straight one-point leads. The Spartans then broke open the score by taking a 19-16 lead and went on to close out the set 25-21. The Gophers needed a spark to avoid falling on their home court. They got one from of Mia Tabberson . With Tabberson setting, the Gophers settled into an offensive groove in the fourth set. Three monstrous kills by Love helped Minnesota jump out to a 16-3 lead. Michigan State began breaking down defensively as all momentum of the match began swinging the GophersâÄô way as they closed out the set 25-17. In the fifth, Minnesota began pulling away when Wilson and Gibbemeyer teamed up on a pair of solid blocks to push the GophersâÄô lead to 10-7. A Gibbemeyer touch kill gave Minnesota a 14-9 set point. Gibbemeyer and Tabberson teamed up for a last block, and the Gophers took the match and the set with a final score of 15-9. The Gophers now take to the road to face No. 1 Penn State on Friday and Ohio State on Saturday. Both matches start at 6 p.m.