The Minnesota volleyball program will host Indiana and No. 1 Penn State this week. Minnesota will welcome Indiana to the Sports Pavilion on Friday, Oct. 10 at 7 p.m., and will face the top-ranked Nittany Lions at Williams Arena on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m.
Minnesota’s match against Penn State will air on the Big Ten Network at 7 p.m., and will be shown in its entirety.
The Golden Gophers enter the weekend ranked No. 12 in the nation, and are 14-2 overall. Minnesota is tied with Penn State for first place in the Big Ten at 4-0. The Golden Gophers have won nine of their last 10 conference matches dating back to last year.
Minnesota has outblocked its opposition in every match this year, and in the last 17 matches they have played dating back to 2007. The Golden Gophers have outblocked opponents 2.99-to-1.50 this year. Minnesota is paced by Lauren Gibbemeyer who is fourth in the nation in blocks and leads the Big Ten with 1.59 blps. Gibbemeyer also has 3.34 kps and is hitting .325 this year.
Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) has been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week the last three weeks, and four times overall this year. She leads the Big Ten with 5.50 dps, and is 10th in the nation. Rachel Hartmann is averaging 11.18 aps, 2.32 dps and 0.68 blps, and is 17th in the nation in assists. Brook Dieter is also averaging 3.40 kps, 1.73 dps and 0.71 blps. As a team, Minnesota is also leading the Big Ten in digs (18.41) and blocks (2.99 blps).
Indiana enters Friday’s match with a 9-7 overall record, and is tied for ninth in the Big Ten at 1-3. Last week, they lost at home to Penn State in three sets and defeated the Spartans in four sets at home. The Hoosiers are led by Erica Short who has 4.86 kps, 1.84 dps and 0.86 blps. Minnesota has won the last nine meetings in the series dating back to Sept. 26, 2003.
“The coaching staff that took over Indiana last year has done a great job turning around the attitude of that program,” said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. “Indiana is coming off a quality home victory over Michigan State, and has been in some tough matches this year in the Big Ten. They are a quality team that we need to be prepared to play on Friday.”
Penn State is ranked No. 1 in the nation, and brings a 16-0 overall record into the match. The Nittany Lions have not lost a set during the 2008 season, and have a 42-match winning streak heading into their first match of the week against Iowa on Oct. 10. Penn State is tied with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten at 4-0.
The Nittany Lions have also won 29 straight Big Ten matches, which is the fourth-longest streak in the conference’s history. Penn State owns the longest two winning streaks at 49 (1997-99) and 41 (2004-06). Illinois has the third-longest winning streak in conference history at 40 (1985-87). Mike Hebert was the head coach of Illinois at the time, and assistant coach Laura Bush played on the 1987 team that won the Big Ten title that year at 17-1.
“We are extremely excited to be able to go over to Williams Arena once a year, and to do so with an opponent who is playing at such a high level as Penn State should generate a very high level of interest,” said Hebert. “Russ (Rose) has done a tremendous job of having his program play at a high level for long stretch of time. We are looking forward to the test it will provide our team, and are ready to come out and perform at a high level.”
On Saturday, Minnesota will also host a “Dig Pink” night when the Golden Gophers face No. 1 Penn State at Williams Arena on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 6 p.m. “Dig Pink” is a volleyball event meant to raise community awareness of breast cancer, and to bring focus on what individuals can do to help eradicate the disease.
“I think it is great to see all these teams around the nation being part of this event to help cure and bring awareness to Breast Cancer,” said Hebert. “I am glad we can be part of this event, and help out in any way that we can.”
Donations for “Dig Pink” will be collected at the door of the event, and pink bracelets will also be for sale at the event. There will also be a silent auction that will run up until intermission (between sets two and three). Winners will be announced during the third set.
All donations will benefit the Side-Out Foundation, a national 501 (c)(3) located in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area. Donations can also be made on line by going to http://www.sideoutvolleyball.org/mainevent/minievent/Minnesot/.
All of the Minnesota coaching staff and the table staff will wear pink in recognition of the “Dig Pink” night. Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the event as well. Golden Gopher players will also wear pink warm-ups for the event.
Minnesota and Penn State will be one of hundreds of teams around the national participating in the “Dig Pink” event that is designed to help raise awareness of breast cancer and receive donations to help fight the disease.
The event is also billed as the “Battle in the Barn” and tickets will be $1 for general admission.
In 2004, Minnesota broke the school record in attendance when 10,927 fans were at the Golden Gophers four-set victory over Illinois on Oct. 16 at Williams Arena.