The University of Minnesota women's volleyball team fought back from a 0-1 deficit to defeat Creighton, 3-1 in the Second Round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship tournament, tonight at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers took the match by scores of 20-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-17 to move to 26-7 on the season, while Creighton finishes 29-4. Minnesota advances to the NCAA Regional Semifinals next weekend in West Lafayette, Ind. It marks the fourth-straight year the Gophers have made it to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Five Gophers finished with double-digit kills, Ashley Wittman led the way with 17, while also adding 12 digs to the defensive effort. Katherine Harms finished with 14 kills and Dana Knudsen tied a season-high 11 kills. Daly Santana and Tori Dixon also chipped in 11. Dixon also reached the 1,000 kill mark in the fourth set. As a team, Minnesota hit .314 to Creighton's .233 collective and held a narrow 47-44 mark in digs. The Jays held the 13.0-9.0 edge in blocks.
Creighton hit .423 in the first set to win it, 25-20. The Jays opened the match with 3-1 after forcing an attack error from Santana. Kills from Dixon and Wittman allowed the Gophers to come back to tie the game at four. Creighton pulled out to another lead at 8-6 after a service ace, but the Gophers tied it again at 10 when Knudsen connected with a quick set. Santana tallied two consecutive kills to take a two-point lead. Wittman followed with one of her own to extend the lead to three. The Jays battled back to 15-14 with a kill from Leah McNary and a block on the outside. Harms delivered a back-row attack for a 15-15 game. The teams saw three more tie scores until Creighton pulled ahead, 20-18, with a block. Creighton's setter, Megan Bober dumped the ball over on the second to go up 21-18. On the next play, Melanie Jereb ricocheted one off the block and out to put the score at 22-19. Knudsen kept the Maroon and Gold active towards the end, sandwiching a pair of kills around one from Jereb. Kelli Browning tallied the kill to make it set point for the Jays then combined with Bober for a block to win the set.
In the second set, Minnesota rebounded and hit .424, while holding the Jays to .172 for a 25-17 second set win. Minnesota came off the bench with fire to push out to a 7-0 lead, paced by a service ace from Wittman and three attacks from Santana on offense. Harms extended the lead to 9-2 off of a one-handed set from Alexandra Palmer. Creighton answered with four straight to cut the lead in half. Heather Thorson and Bober combined for a block to make the score 9-6 and force a Minnesota timeout. The Jays crawled back to a one-point game with a kill from Michelle Sicner. Wittman answered with a cut shot inside the 10-foot line and followed with another to put the Gophers up 13-10. With Wittman again at the service line, Minnesota moved ahead by six. Dixon came up with a huge kill to set the score at 20-14. Wittman notched a kill and a block on the outside to make it set point but the Jays kept it alive with a kill from McNary. Wittman put away her seventh kill of the match to take the set and make it 1-1.
Minnesota erased a 17-10 deficit to come back and win the third set, 25-23. Creighton was first on the board in the third set and ran out to a 4-0 lead. Wittman stopped the momentum with a kill from the far side and then moved back to the service line where she paced another run that allowed the Gophers to pull back to a tie score. After a few plays of trading points, Creighton raced away with a 7-1 streak to take a commanding lead, 16-8. Jereb and Sicner tallied kills and Katie Neisler served back-to-back aces before Dixon tipped to center court to end the run. Wittman, Knudsen, and Harms showed up on the attack, launching a kill each, while Palmer followed with an ace to bring the Gophers within one. Two points later, Minnesota tied the set at 18 with a tip from Harms. Bober went over on two for a 20-19 score but Harms once again made the play to tie it. Santana pounded a kill to take back the lead. Dixon capitalized on an overpass to push to 23-21. Creighton was able to add two more points, but Knudsen put the game away, 25-23, to demand a fourth set.
The Gophers finished the task and moved into the NCAA Sweet 16 on a 25-17 fourth set win. Dixon tallied the 1,000th kill of her career to bring the Gophers to 2-3 in the fourth set. Dixon followed with a block, combined with Mia Tabberson to go up 4-3. Dixon added two more kills followed by one from Wittman as part of a 3-0 run. At the 11-7 mark, Minnesota fired three straight points with kills from Wittman and Knudsen, and a second ace from Palmer. Creighton pulled back for a few points at the hands of Thorson, but Minnesota was too far ahead with a 20-12 lead. Tabberson notched consecutive kills to lengthen the gap to 23-12. Creighton battled back to win the next four points, but Wittman stopped the momentum and made it set point, 24-16. Browning delayed the game with a kill. Knudsen and Harms combined for a block for the final set and match point.
With tonight's win, the Gophers advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen on Dec. 7 where they will face Purdue in West Lafayette, Ind.at 6 p.m. CT.