Injury to Spartans’ Sanborn could prove costly

Brian Stensaas

On paper, it looked as though fans who piled into the Jenison Field House Friday night would see quite a show when the Michigan State volleyball team hosted the Gophers.
Minnesota’s Stephanie Hagen (.417) and the Spartans’ Jessica Sanborn (.389), the Big Ten’s top two in season hitting percentage, were inked to do battle.
But paper always has its occasional rip or wrinkle.
According to a press release the Spartans released Tuesday, Sanborn, a 6-foot-2 senior middle blocker, suffered a broken ankle last weekend and will be out at least four weeks.
“That’s a big blow for them,” Minnesota coach Mike Hebert said. “Although, what happens sometimes is some piece of a team gets changed and all of a sudden a team comes out and plays with a newly found enthusiasm and inspiration.”
Hebert laid out a scenario from when he was at the helm for Illinois.
Needing at least a 3-1 victory in the final match of the season to claim the outright Big Ten title, Hebert’s Illini suffered a setback when 6-foot-4 outside hitter Tina Rogers broke her ankle. Hebert put in a player who hadn’t played all year, and Illinois won 3-0.
Sanborn averaged a .322 hitting percentage and 3.54 kills per game last season for the Spartans.

Movin’ on up
After opening the Big Ten season a dismal 0-3, defending national champion Penn State has rebounded to stand at 5-3. The Nittany Lions are two games back along with Michigan State. Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin are log-jammed atop the conference standings with 7-1 records.
Inquiring minds will know if Penn State is for real Friday night when the Lions travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Buckeyes.

Absent aces
Minnesota junior setter Lindsey Berg has led the Big Ten in service aces the past two seasons — the first player in conference history to do so — but she will have to quicken her pace if she wants to again.
Dating back to the Gophers’ 3-0 loss to Wisconsin Oct. 6, a span of 14 games, Berg has just four service aces to 12 service errors. Still, Berg is third in the conference in service errors with .44 per game. She trails Wisconsin’s Meggan Kohen and the Illini’s Amber Lindner who are both averaging .48 per game.

Leading Ladies
Along with Hagen, Nicole Branagh is also at the top of a Big Ten statistical category.
Branagh leads the conference in digs, averaging 3.78 per game. She is also second in kills behind Wisconsin’s Sherisa Livingston.
As a team, the Gophers also lead the conference in hitting percentage with .268.

Brian Stensaas covers volleyball and welcomes comments at [email protected]