|| Minnesota vs. James Madison/Appalachian State
Aug. 22, 2012
The University of Minnesota volleyball program opens the 2012 season at the James Madison Days Inn Invitational in Harrisonburg, Va. The Golden Gophers will play two matches on Saturday, Aug. 25th as they play host James Madison at 11:30 a.m. (CT) and Appalachian State at 4:00 p.m. (CT). Seton Hall rounds out the competition. The 2012 season marks the 41st season of Gopher Volleyball, dating back to 1972. In that span, the program has posted over 1,460 wins in the first 40 years.
Fans can follow the Gopher volleyball program through the live chat for both of Saturday's matches. Along with live stats, a free audio link is provided for the James Madison match at 11:30 a.m.
The match against James Madison will be the first meeting between the two teams. Minnesota has only faced Appalachian State one other time in program history. The Gophers won its only other contest against the Mountaineers in 1997.
Host James Madison held a 20-11 record in 2011 and is selected to finish third this year in the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Coaches' poll. JMU returns five starters and its libero from last year's team. The Dukes are primarily led by senior outside hitters Natalie Abel and Danielle Erb, who both received preseason conference honors. Abel was named a 2012 All-CAA Preseason honoree, while Erb was an honorable mention. Last season, Abel was a First Team All-CAA when she started in 31 matches and led the team with 350 kills. Erb received Third Team All-CAA last season and had 276 kills in 24 starts. Lauren Steinbrecher is in her third year as the Dukes head coach and holds a record of 42-19 at JMU.
Appalachian State finished last season with a 21-11 record and a 12-4 Southern Conference record. Picked to finish second in the SoCon North Division, the Mountaineers return just two starters from last year's team. Their only senior on the team is libero Courtney Rhein, who led the conference in digs per set (4.95) and was named second-team All-Southern Conference. Also returning for App State is junior middle blocker Jessica Eley, who made 26 starts as a sophomore last season. Like Minnesota, the Mountaineers have a large freshmen contingent with five rookies and sophomore middle blocker UMBC transfer Dalton Tolliver. Appalachian State is led by coach Matt Ginipro, who is in his sixth season.
Minnesota holds a 31-8 record all-time in season openers. The Golden Gophers opened last year with a five-set loss to Southern California in the AVCA Showcase. Prior to the 2011 season opener, Minnesota won seven-straight season openers, dating back to 2003.
Minnesota has five of its 14 players from the state of California in Karyn Israel, Dana Knudsen, Lindsey Lawmaster, Alexandra Palmer and Kalysta White. The California five is the most on a Minnesota volleyball roster in a single season. The 2012 roster breakdown includes six from Minnesota (Dixon, Harms, Hauer, Haugen, Lindstedt, Wittman), five from California, one from Colorado (Bohl), one from Indiana (Tabberson) and one from Puerto Rico (Santana).
Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wittman is just two kills away from reaching her 1,000 career kill. As a rookie in 2010, Wittman had 442 kills and has established 556 as a sophomore. She had 12 matches where she's had more than 20 kills last year. In 24 of her 32 matches, Wittman has led or tied for the team kill lead. A six-rotation player, Wittman also led the team with 18 double doubles last year.
Minnesota roster breakdown is four seniors (Karms, Haugen, Knudsen and Tabberson), four juniors (Dixon, Lindstedt, Palmer and Wittman), one sophomore (Bohl), and five freshmen (Hauer, Israel, Lawmaster, Santana and White). By position, the Gopher position breakdown is three middle blockers (Dixon, Haugen and Knudsen), six outside hitters (Harms, Hauer, Santana, Bohl, Lindstedt, Wittman), three setters (Israel, Palmer, Tabberson) and two libero/defensive specialists (Lawmaster, White). Minnesota graduated three 2011 starters in Hailey Cowles, Jessica Granquist and Ariana Filho. Gopher returning starters include Dixon, Harms, Tabberson and Wittman to the 2012 campaign.
The Golden Gophers held a 20-12 overall record and an 11-9 mark within Big Ten Conference play last season. On their home court, Minnesota went 10-5 and hosted the first four rounds of the NCAA Tournament last season at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota went 5-2 in the final seven matches of the regular season with wins against Ohio State (3-1), Michigan State (3-0), a loss to Michigan (0-3), loss at Nebraska (1-3), a win at Iowa (3-1) and two home wins against Wisconsin (3-0) and Indiana (3-0). The Gophers hosted North Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament (W, 3-0) and followed with a come-from-behind win over Washington (3-2) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The Gophers ended their season with a four-set loss to Iowa State.
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