CollThe fifth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (1-1) fell to No. 1 USC (2-0)in five games in the NACWAA Classic championship match by scores of 25-30, 32-30, 26-30, 30-28, 15-12 at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo. The Golden Gophers finished second in the NACWAA Classic with a 1-1 record, while USC won a second straight NACWAA Classic title.
Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara, Brazil) and Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) were named to the NACWAA Classic All-Tournament team, along with Keao Burdine (USC), Staci Venski (USC), Jayme Gergen (Georgia Tech) and Dre Downs (Colorado State). USC's Bibiani Candelas was named the tournament MVP.
Gentil had a career-high and NACWAA record 37 digs, while Martin tied a career-high with 28 kills. Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) had the Golden Gophers first triple-double since Nov. 10, 2000 with 17 kills, 18 digs and 40 assists.
USC jumped out to an early 3-2 lead in game one, but Minnesota answered with a 7-0 run to go up 9-3. The Golden Gophers extended the lead to 12-5. USC responded with three straight points to cut the lead to 12-8. USC cut the lead to 14-11, before Minnesota scored three of the next four points to go up 17-11. USC got the lead back down to 18-15, but the Golden Gophers scored five of the next six points to go up 23-16 led by a pair of kills by Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.).
The Women of Troy answered with three straight points to cut the lead to 23-19. The Golden Gophers scored four of the next six points to go up 27-21 paced by a pair of kills from both Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) and Bowman. Minnesota scored two of the next three points to get game point at 29-22. USC fought off three game points to make it 29-25, but Trisha Bratford (Reseda, Calif.) put down a kill to give Minnesota game one 30-25. Minnesota outhit USC .420 to .286 in the game, and was led by eight kills from Martin. Bratford and Bowman also had six kills, as the Golden Gophers recorded an amazing 26 kills in the game. Paula Gentil (Forteleaz Ceara, Brazil) also had 12 digs in the game.
Minnesota jumped out to a 9-3 lead in game two. The Golden Gophers led 11-5, before USC scored seven of the next nine points to cut the lead to 13-12. Minnesota answered with three straight points to go up 16-12. The Golden Gophers kept up the margin at 20-16, before the Women of Troy scored four of the next five points to cut it to 21-20. Minnesota scored the next two points on consecutive kills by Martin and Bowman to make it 23-20. However, USC ripped off six straight points to go up 26-23. Minnesota rallied to tie the score at 27. The two teams tied again at 28. Minnesota had game point to go ahead 2-0 in the match, but USC fought it off to tie the game at 29. The two teams tied at 30 before USC had the last two points of the game to win 32-30 to even out the match at 1-1. USC outhit Minnesota .308 to .291, and outdug the Golden Gophers 23 to 17 in game two. Martin again led the way with seven kills for the Golden Gophers.
The third game started out close with the score tied at nine in the early going. Minnesota scored five of the next seven points to go up 14-11. The Golden Gophers led 15-12, but USC cut it to 17-16. Minnesota responded with two straight points to go up 19-16. USC came right back with six of the next seven points to take the lead at 22- 21. The two teams exchanged ties at 22, 23, 24 and 25. Martin and Nelson delivered back-to-back kills to put the Golden Gophers ahead 27-25. Gentil followed with a service ace to put Minnesota ahead 28- 25. Bowman followed with a kill to give the Golden Gophers game point at 29-25. USC fought off one game point to make it 29-26, but Martin put down a kill to give Minnesota game three 30-26.
Minnesota limited USC to a .159 hitting percentage and hit .341 in game three. The Golden Gophers had 21 kills to the Women of Troy's 13 in the game. Bratford and Nelson paced Minnesota with five kills in the game, while Gentil and Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) had eight and seven digs respectively in the game.
Minnesota jumped out to a 4-1 lead in game four, but USC scored six of the next eight points to take the lead at 7-6. The Golden Gophers scored four of the next five points to go up 10-8. Minnesota moved ahead 14-11, but USC cut it to 16-15 with four of the next six points. The two teams exchanged points to make it 17-16. Byrnes and Martin came up with consecutive kills to move the lead to 19-16. USC answered back with five of the next seven points to tie the score at 21. The two teams exchanged ties at 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. USC finally broke the tie with three consecutive points to get game point at 29-26. Byrnes and Martin delivered back-to-back kills to fight off the first two game points to make it 29-28. Keao Burdine finally gave USC the fourth game with a kill to send the match to a fifth game.
USC outhit Minnesota .205 to .157, despite the fact that Minnesota had 20 kills in the game. The Golden Gophers also committed 12 errors in the game. Martin led the way for Minnesota with eight kills in the game.
USC jumped out to a 6-3 lead in game five, but Jen Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) and Taatjes had consecutive kills to cut the lead to 6- 5. The Women of Troy scored four of the next five points to go up 10- 6. The two teams exchanged the next four points to make the score 12- 8. Minnesota answered with consecutive points to cut the lead down to 12-10. Martin put down a kill to cut the led to 12-11. However, USC scored the next two points to get match point at 14-11. Martin cut it to 14-12, but Bibiana Candelas put down a kill to give USC the match at 15-12.
Bratford finished with 19 kills for the match. Byrnes and Nelson had 12 and 11 kills respectively for Minnesota. Nelson also had seven blocks. Taatjes had seven kills, 45 assists and 15 digs. Marci Peniata (Plymouth, Minn.) also chipped in with 10 digs.
Burdine led USC with 21 kills and 13 digs. USC libero Debora Seilhamer had 30 digs for the Women of Troy. Candelas also had 16 kills, while Alicia Robinson had 14 on the night.
With the victory, USC has now won 49 straight matches dating back to 2002. Minnesota drops to 0-8 against No. 1 teams in its school history, and has lost both NACWAA Classic finals it has appeared in to the No. 1 team in nation. Minnesota became only the second team to force USC to five games during their 49-match winning streak, joining California who did so in 2003.
Minnesota will be in action next on Friday, Sept. 3 when it plays a pair of matches in the Wyoming Tournament against Texas-San Antonio at 1 p.m. (CT) and Idaho State at 8 p.m. (CT). The Golden Gophers will finish the tournament on Saturday, Sept. 4 against the host Wyoming at 8 p.m. (CT).