The seventh seeded University of Minnesota Volleyball team defeated Northern Iowa in four sets (25-18, 20-25, 25-19, 25-17) to advance to the NCAA Regional Semifinals. With the win, the Gophers improve to 28-5 overall.
Alexis Hart led Minnesota with 20 kills and was followed by Regan Pittman, who tallied 14 and hit .522. Molly Lohman posted 11 kills, hit .455 and had eight of the team's 11 blocks. Stephanie Samedy and Brittany McLean had nine kills each. Samantha Seliger-Swenson had a double-double with 53 assists and 17 digs. Dalianliz Rosado posted 26 digs, followed by Lauren Barnes who had 13. As a team, the Gophers hit .311 on the match, including .457 in the fourth. Minnesota out blocked the Panthers 11-1 and held a 66-55 kill advantage.
The Gophers are back in action in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on December 8 as they take on the University of Southern California. Times and streaming information will be announced at a later date.
First Set: Minnesota utilized five blocks en route to a 25-18 set win. The two teams traded points until Minnesota went on a three-point run at 12-9, capped off by a kill from Lohman. It forced UNI to call a timeout. The Gophers later went up 15-12 off a McLean kill, and a Hart kill pushed the score to 18-14 and another Northern Iowa timeout. UNI cut the lead to two off a kill at 19-17, but Minnesota added four-straight off an UNI attack error and a 23-17 lead. Minnesota finished off the set with a Hart kill and a 1-0 lead.
Second Set: Northern Iowa hit .364 to take the second set, 25-20. UNI opened the second set with a 10-7 lead the Gophers called a timeout. The Panthers took a 15-10, but the Gophers cut UNI's lead to off a Pittman kill at 13-15. Northern Iowa called its first timeout. However, UNI took a four-point lead off a Gopher attack and an 18-14 lead as the Gophers called a timeout. Minnesota came within three at 20-23, but UNI finished off the set with a kill and a point off a Gopher attack error.
Third Set: After 10 ties and six lead changes the Gophers pulled away mid set and won the set, 25-19. Tied at 14-14, Minnesota took a three-point advantage off a McLean kill, which resulted in a UNI timeout. Minnesota took a 19-15 lead off a block from Pittman and Hart. The Gophers later took a 21-15 lead as Hart added a kill off the UNI block attempt. Minnesota added its 23rd point off a Hart kill, while Samedy pushed it to set point. UNI committed an attack error, which gave the Gophers a 2-1 lead.
Fourth Set: The Gophers had 17 kills and hit .457 in the fourth to win it, 25-17. Minnesota opened the fourth set with a 7-4 lead off a Seliger-Swenson kill. After a block by Samedy and Lohman, UNI called a timeout. Hart delivered back-to-back kills, as she touched both corners of the back court, for a 12-6 lead. It forced Northern Iowa to call its second timeout. Another block by Lohman and Hart pushed the lead to 14-7. Minnesota took an 18-9 lead off back-to-back UNI attack errors. The Gophers poured on the pressure and took a 22-10 lead off a UNI attack error. Minnesota later closed out the match with a kill from the senior Lohman to win, 3-1.
Post Match Quotes
Hugh McCutcheon, Minnesota Head Coach
"Very proud of our performance tonight. UNI is one heck of a team and certainly they played like it tonight. It was a great battle. Really proud of our athlete's ability to maintain composure, execute the plan, to make adjustments in match, and most importantly to compete like crazy and to move onto the next round. We're certainly very happy to advance."
"Pretty special night of volleyball and the caliber of the two teams going at it. I thought it was one of our best performances of the year. Thanks to the fans for coming out and it's been another great year of volleyball in Minnesota. We're so grateful for them and hopefully they appreciated our last match."
On the how Alexis Hart played...
"She was matched up with a favorable blocking matchup. Most of it had to do with the fact we were digging a lot off the net. The ball ended up going high left a lot and Alexis happened to be the lucky outside hitter in those rotations. She did a nice job in the first set to hit with a lot of range. Then in the second set in system really good with transition trying to do a lot. Then really great three and four. She was controlled and such great swings. I thought she grew a lot today you can ask her but I think she got a whole lot better today."
On blocking performance tonight...
"I thought we blocked quite well. As you saw last night and could see tonight they hit with a lot of different range and routes their hitters are running. I was really impressed with our athlete's ability to identify the route and get their hands in front of them. Piper Thomas was a handful no doubt. I was really impressed with our ability to see it, read it, and be over extending the contact. It made a big difference. Good to get some stuffs and we like a few of those leading into the next round.
On team's connectedness...
"What's important for this team is the connections are authentic. If Lex is on and she has the hot-hand then everyone is on board. They are doing everything they can to help her be successful. If it's someone else then they're happy to do that. If it means making changes and making subs and this team is very selfless and very invested in this idea that it will take all 18 of us to get us here and going forward."
No. 19 Alexis Hart
On the difference in fourth set...
"In the fourth set we had a lot more energy and we were more connected. We were 100% out for every rally and every single point no matter what. I think that was a big thing for us going from the third set to the fourth."
On strong start in the fourth set...
"We wanted to take it one point at a time like always, and I think we did a really good job of being in control."
On importance of closing match in fourth set...
"Pretty important. I thought we did really well of just moving on to the next point. If they did something we just moved on to the next point and focusing on our side of the net. We did a good job of taking care of our side-outs."
No. 21 Regan Pittman
On experience gained thus far in tournament...
"This experience has been really humbling and with such strong leadership from our upperclassmen it really has helped guide us to become better."
On Alexis Hart's success on court as of late...
"To see those opportunities it's an amazing experience. You want to see your teammates do well. I believe everyone is helping her through her successes."
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