The University of Minnesota volleyball team fell to No. 1 seed Penn State in the NCAA Regional Final match, today in West Lafayette, Ind. The Golden Gophers fell in four sets, 19-25, 25-19, 24-26 and 18-25 to the Nittany Lions. PSU advances to the NCAA Final Four next weekend in Louisville, Ky. Minnesota ends the season with a 27-8 overall record.
Harms led the Gophers with 17 kills, while Santana had eight kills, 13 digs and two block assists. Dixon hit a match-best .538 and had eight kills in 13 swings. She also had a solo block and five block assists. Ashley Wittman suffered an ankle injury, but still established seven kills and eight digs in the loss. Karlie Hauer came into the game for the injured Wittman and had four kills, one error in 10 swings. PSU held a 62-49 kill advantage, and out dug the Gophers, 73-61, but the two teams each had 14.0 blocks.
Minnesota fell in the first set, 25-19. PSU built up a 12-8 lead and continued to lead the remainder of the set for the win. After a Gopher attack error for a PSU 17-12 lead, Minnesota trailed 21-15 on a Deja McClendon kill. The Gophers would attempt a small comeback at the end of the set when Santana had a kill, followed by a PSU attack error and a kill from Wittman. Minnesota hit just .135 to PSU’s .293 as the Nittany Lions capitalized on 17 kills to Minnesota’s 10.
Trailing 8-5 in the second set, Minnesota went on a 9-0 run to take it, 25-19. Minnesota held PSU to a .083 hitting percentage and out-blocked the Nittany Lions five blocks to none. In the Alexandra Palmer serving rotation, the Gophers went on a 9-0 run, capped off by a kill from Wittman. Minnesota would then take a 21-12 lead on a Harms ace and pushed it to 23-14 on a Dixon kill. PSU battled back and went on the 5-0 run, before PSU had an attack error for set point. Minnesota earned its fifth block of the set as Dana Knudsen and Wittman combined for the attempt and won the set. The set lost for Penn State was its first of the NCAA Tournament and first since it defeated Purdue in four in West Lafayette, Ind. on Nov. 17,
PSU took the narrowly contended third set, 26-24. Despite Minnesota hitting .323, PSU hit .324 in the set. Trailing 14-9 in the third set, Minnesota responded and tied the set at 15 on a PSU attack error and took the lead at 16-15 on a kill from Santana. Minnesota hit 20 first on a kill from Dixon at 20-18. Minnesota went up, 23-21 on a kill from Hauer and Harms. PSU, however, responded and took it to set point at 24-23 on two kills from Hancock and one from McClendon. Minnesota tied the set on a slide kill from Knudsen, but PSU put away the close set with a block and a kill from Ariel Scott to go up, 2-1.
Penn State closed out the match with a 25-18 fourth-set win. Trailing 9-5, Minnesota came back and tied the set at 10 on a kill from Wittman. The Gophers would take a 13-10 lead on an attack error by Hancock. PSU would tie up the set at 14 with an ace from Hancock. Minnesota tied it at 16 all after a Harms kill. PSU's Scott would get a kill over the Gopher block for an 18-17 and the Nittany Lions would remain in control for the remainder of the set. After a 20-18 lead, PSU would get a solo block and kill from McClendon, followed by back-to-back blocks from her to put it at match point. She ended the match with a kill at 25-18.
Minnesota made it to the Elite Eight under first-year head coach Hugh McCutcheon. In 2012, the Golden Gophers finished in a tie for second in the Big Ten, had two All-Big Ten and All-Region selections in Harms and Dixon (All-Americans announced at the NCAA Final Four).
The loss also marked the final match for Minnesota's seniors Harms, Mia Tabberson, Brianna Haugen and Knudsen. Harms finished her Gopher career with 1,071 kills, while Tabberson finished her Gopher career with 2,565 assists.