Playing on the road is never easy, but to make matters worse, the Michigan volleyball team (7-5 Big Ten, 11-8 overall) will play this weekend in what is arguably the toughest venue in the conference.

The Wolverines will take on No. 24 Minnesota (6-6, 12-8) at the Sports Pavilion to begin their road trip tonight before taking on Iowa (3-16, 1-11) tomorrow night. The Golden Gophers” dominance at home has fueled student appreciation for volleyball. As a result, the Sports Pavilion is regularly packed with a loud and intimidating Gopher crowd, seated very close to the court.

“At Minnesota, they have a big crowd, and they are right on top of you,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said.

Michigan has had an up and down season on the road this year. The Wolverines beat Purdue and Indiana on the road for the first time in several years, but fell to Illinois Oct. 12 in Champaign. At one point after a net violation by Michigan”s Katrina Lehman at Illinois, the crowd chanted as one, “That was stupid.” The hostile atmosphere rattled the Wolverines and the they did not execute their system well, ultimately losing the match.

More recently, when Michigan traveled to East Lansing last Wednesday, it was again confronted by a hostile crowd. The Michigan State fans disturbed the Wolverines throughout the match and again knocked Michigan out of its offensive system.

But the Wolverines have a psychological advantage as they hit the road this weekend. Minnesota was the first ranked team Michigan beat this season as it downed the Gophers in four games at Cliff Keen Arena. This win was a confidence boost for Michigan at the time, but is also a source of confidence for the Wolverines as they travel this weekend.

Despite what happens in Minnesota, Michigan will need to take whatever momentum it has to Iowa City tomorrow night, in the largest but often the emptiest venue in the Big Ten.

This weekend

Who: Michigan (7-5 Big Ten, 11-8 overall) at Minnesota (6-6, 12-8) and Iowa (3-16, 1-11).

When: 7:30 p.m, both nights.

Latest: Crazy Golden Gophers” fans will attempt to rattle Michigan before it heads south and takes on Iowa in a likely empty arena.

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