Minnesota will travel to Northwestern and Michigan State this week. The Golden Gophers will face the Wildcats on Friday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m., and then head to East Lansing to face the Spartans on Saturday, Oct. 20 at 5:30 p.m. (CT). Northwestern enters the week with a 10-9 overall record, and a 1-7 Big Ten mark. Michigan State is 2-6 in conference play, and has an overall record of 11-9 this season. Minnesota is ranked No. 13 in the nation, and enters the week with a 12-6 overall record. The Golden Gophers are also third in the Big Ten at 5-3.
After this week, the Golden Gophers will be at the halfway mark in Big Ten play. Minnesota enters the week with a 5-3 conference record. The Golden Gophers have been 7-3 or better in the first half in seven of Mike Hebert’s 11 seasons. Minnesota’s best first half records came in 2002, 2004 and 2006 when the Golden Gophers started out 9-1. They were also 8-2 in 1999 and 2003. Minnesota was also 7-3 in Hebert’s first year in 1996. The Golden Gophers were 6-4 in 1997 and 2005, and had their only losing record in the first half of Big Ten in play in 1998 when they were 4-6.
Minnesota has six players on its current roster who will return home to the state of Illinois when the Golden Gophers face Northwestern on Oct. 19. Senior Jessy Jones, juniors Krista Chin, Rachel Hartmann, Kelly Schmidt, Katie Vatterrodt and freshman Caitlin Schneider are all from the state of Illinois.
The Golden Gophers are 5-2 on the road this year. Minnesota’s only losses on the road this year have come to top-10 opponents. Minnesota has defeated Notre Dame, Eastern Kentucky, Utah State, Iowa and Ohio State on the road, and lost to No. 9 California and No. 2 Penn State. Since the beginning of the 2006 season, the Golden Gophers have gone 15-5 in matches played away from home.
Minnesota is fifth in the nation in blocks per game this season at 3.54 blpg. The Golden Gophers have outblocked 14 of their 18 opponents this year, and have registered double-figure blocks in 14 of their 18 matches this year. This past week, Minnesota outblocked its opponents 4.36 to 2.71 in a pair of matches against No. 9 Wisconsin and Illinois. The Golden Gophers had 17.5 blocks per game in four games against Illinois and 13.0 against Wisconsin in three games. Minnesota is also second in the conference in blocks.
Senior middle blocker Jessy Jones became the eighth player in school history to record 400 career blocks, as she recorded it against No. 9 Wisconsin on Oct. 12. Jones entered the week with a 398 blocks in her career, and record nine last week to move her career total to 407. She currently sits in eighth place, nine blocks behind Gretchen Dahl (1991-94) for seventh.
Minnesota sophomore libero Christine Tan had her second career 30-dig match on Oct. 13 against Illinois. Tan is one of only four players in Golden Gopher history to record 30 digs or more in a match. Tan joins Chris Schaefer (1986-89), Paula Gentil (2002-05) and Malama Peniata (2003-06) on that list. Tan’s 30-dig matches came in her 44th and 52nd career matches. Both are the earliest stages in a career that a Golden Gopher has recorded 30 digs or more in a match. Gentil had her first 30-dig match in her 55th career match.