announcemThe Minnesota volleyball team will open the 2004 season on Friday, Aug. 27 in a match against host Colorado State in the first round of the NACWAA Women's Volleyball Classic, according to an announcement by NACWAA on May 18. The other match will feature Georgia Tech and two-time defending national champion USC.
The consolation and championship matches will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28. Times have yet to be determined for any of the four matches. Television broadcast dates and times will also be announced at a later date.
Minnesota and USC are the only two programs to have appeared in the NACWAA Classic in two of the last three seasons. The Golden Gophers hosted the tournament in 2002, while USC won the NACWAA championship last year in Hawai'i to start the season.
The matchup between Colorado State and Minnesota is a rematch from the 2003 season. In that match, Minnesota rallied from a 2-1 deficit to take a five-game match from Colorado State on its way to winning the Diet Coke Classic.
Minnesota returns 11 letterwinners from last year's team that advanced to the first Final Four in school history. The Golden Gophers finished the 2003 season ranked No. 4, its highest ranking in school history. Minnesota also became the first regional No. 4 seed in the history of the NCAA Tournament to gain a Final Four appearance.
The Golden Gophers finished 26-11 overall and tied for second place in the Big Ten at 15-5. Over the past two seasons, the Golden Gophers have amassed the best record in the Big Ten at 32-8. Minnesota returns Second-team AVCA All-American and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Paula Gentil, Honorable Mention All-Big Ten setter Lindsey Taatjes, Big Ten All-Freshman team middle blocker Meredith Nelson and Erin Martin who was named to the Pacific Regional All-Tournament team.
Colorado State return six starters and 10 letterwinners from a team that advanced to the Regional Semifinals for the fourth time in five seasons in 2003. Colorado State won the Mountain West conference with a 14-0 record, and finished the season with a 30-5 overall record. The Rams return Honorable Mention All-Americans Katie Jo Shirley and Melissa Courtney.
Colorado State won the NACWAA Women's Volleyball Classic in their only previous appearance in 2001. In that season, the Rams defeated host Florida and then UCLA to win the championship.
Minnesota hosted the event in 2002 at the Sports Pavilion. The Golden Gophers went 1-1, winning in three games against No. 8 Pepperdine and falling in four games to No. 1 Stanford.
This tournament features two of the last four champions of the NACWAA Women's Volleyball Classic. USC claimed the 2003 title at Hawai'i, while Colorado State claimed the 2000 title at Gainesville, Fla.