CThe fifth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (1-0) defeated No. 11 Colorado State in four games by scores of 23-30, 30-24, 30-22, 30-27 in its season opener in the NACWAA Classic at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo. With the victory the Golden Gophers advance to the finals of the NACWAA Classic where they will take on No. 1 USC on Saturday, Aug. 28 at 8:30 p.m. (CT) in a rematch from last year's Final Four.
Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) paced Minnesota with 24 kills, while Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara', Brazil) had a match-high 23 digs, five assists and a career-high four service aces.
Colorado State jumped out to an early 10-4 lead over Minnesota. The Rams built their lead to 21-12. The Golden Gophers answered with five of the next six points to cut the lead to 22-17. With the score at 25- 20, Colorado State rattled off the next two points to go up by seven at 27-20. The Rams would lead by no less then six points the rest of the game, as they moved to a 30-23 game one victory. Colorado State outhit Minnesota .386 to .213 in the game. Trisha Bratford (Reseda, Calif.) paced the Golden Gophers with six kills. The Rams had 18 kills and only one error in the game, while Minnesota committed eight errors.
The two teams were tied in the early going of game two before Colorado State moved ahead 8-7. The Rams went on a 5-0 run to go up 13-7. Minnesota cut the lead to 18-14, but Colorado State moved the lead back to five at 22-17.
The Golden Gophers responded in a big way with 10-0 run, all of which came with junior libero Paula Gentil behind the service line, to go up 27-22. Martin started the run with consecutive kills to make it 22- 19. Gentil followed with a service ace to cut the lead to 22-20. Martin and Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) followed with back-to- back kills to tie the game at 22-22. Minnesota went ahead on a ball handling error by Colorado State for the Golden Gophers first lead of the match at 23-22. Bratford had a block solo and Meredith Nelson (St. Croix, Wis.) followed with a kill to put Minnesota ahead 25-22. Martin had a kill and Gentil finished the run with a service ace to make it 27-22. The Golden Gophers scored two of the next three points to put it at game point at 29-23. After Colorado State fought off game point to make it 29-24, Martin put down a kill to give Minnesota a 30-24 game two victory.
Martin paced Minnesota with eight kills in the game, while Gentil had 10 digs and two service aces. The Golden Gophers outhit the Rams .256 to .133 in the game.
Minnesota jumped out to an early 18-15 lead in game three. However, Colorado State scored five of the next six points to go up 20-19. Minnesota responded with an 11-2 run to close out the game at 30-22. Martin again led the way with seven kills in the game. The Golden Gophers outhit the Rams .378 to .231 in the game.
In game four, Colorado State jumped out to a 13-11 lead. The Rams took a 17-16 lead, but Minnesota scored five of the next six points to go up 21-18. Colorado State answered with a 4-0 run to go up 22- 21. The two teams batted back and forth and were tied at 27. Bratford put Minnesota up 28-27 with a kill. Colorado State followed with an attack error, and the Golden Gophers finished the match when Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) and Bowman put down a block to make it 30- 27.
Bratford had 19 kills on the night for Minnesota. Byrnes also had 10 kills and hit .364 (10-2-22), while Nelson hit .381 (9-1-21). Bowman nearly had a triple-double with seven kills, 14 assists and a career-high 18 digs. Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) finished with five kills, 43 assists and 13 digs.
Minnesota outhit Colorado State .276 to .258, and outdug the Rams 78 to 69.
With the victory Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert claimed his 200th victory with the Minnesota volleyball program.
"This was a well-played match," said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. "I thought one of the big keys to the match was when we changed our serving strategy in game two. Our team did a great job of serving tonight put a lot of pressure on Colorado State. We also played the big points very well. This was a good win for our program and we look forward to playing in the NACWAA Finals."
Colorado State was led by Becky Sarauer who had 16 kills for the match. Bri Frech had 13 kills and 16 digs, while Dre Downs had 14 kills.