"ThThe 11th-ranked Minnesota volleyball team opens its season Friday (today) in Reno, Nev. The Golden Gophers will play Kent State in the Silver Legacy/Ray Wersching Invitational at 7 p.m. (CDT).
"This tournament will be a good test to see where we are as a volleyball team," said Minnesota coach Mike Hebert. "All three teams return the majority of their starters and all have positive attributes."
Minnesota returns five of six starters from its 27-9 team in 1999. Senior outside hitter Nicole Branagh, a second team All-American in 1999, enters her final season with 1,736 kills and is on pace to become the Big Ten's all-time leader in kills. The Gophers return two other all-Big Ten players in junior setter Lindsey Berg and junior middle blocker Stephanie Hagen.
Branagh, Berg, and Hagen are half of the likely starting lineup for the Gophers against Kent State. Junior Yvonne VanOort is expected to start as a left-side hitter, senior Charnette Fair will start as the other middle blocker, and first-year player Erin Lorenzen will start on the right side, replacing the injured Lisa Aschenbrenner.
Minnesota will play twice Saturday, against California at noon and Nevada at 9:30 p.m. The host Wolfpack are the defending tournament champions and return all six starters that was a very strong 10-2 at home in 1999.