|| Minnesota hosts the Diet Coke Classic
Aug. 31, 2012
The University of Minnesota volleyball program opens the home season this weekend as it hosts the Diet Coke Classic, Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota hosts Albany, Long Island University Brooklyn and Miami (OH) this weekend. The Golden Gophers host six matches during the tournament, the first starting at 5 p.m. Friday with Miami and Albany competing. Minnesota plays LIU Brooklyn on Friday, followed by Miami at 10 a.m. Saturday and Albany Saturday night at 8 p.m. An all-tournament winner and all-tournament team will be named following the conclusion of the final match Saturday.
The Diet Coke Classic marks the first competition under Hugh McCutcheon's coaching career. McCutcheon joins the Gopher volleyball program for the first time since being announced as the program's head coach on Feb. 10, 2011. Completing his coaching responsibilities with USA Volleyball earlier this month, McCutcheon guided the United States women's indoor volleyball team to a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. The London Games ended an eight-year USA head coaching stint for McCutcheon, as he also led the USA men's team to a gold medal in 2008.
The Gophers will face Albany for the first time in school history this weekend. Minnesota competed against Long Island in the NCAA Tournament in 2004. In their only other meeting, the Gophers defeated LIU Brooklyn, 3-0 in New Haven, Conn. Out of the three teams coming to Minneapolis this weekend, the Gophers have faced Miami the most (twice). In two meetings, the last time the Gophers competed against the Redhawks dates back to 1997. Minnesota is 2-0 all-time after a win in 1988 and another in the 1997 NCAA First Round (3-0).
On its home court, Minnesota is 29-10 in home openers, dating back to 1973. In the last 11 years, Minnesota has gone 10-1 in its opener, falling only once in that span. The Golden Gophers, who were ranked No. 9, fell to No. 23 against Ohio in 2007, marking the only loss in a home opener. Minnesota opened last year's home season against Texas and defeated the Longhorns in straight sets, 25-20, 25-20 and 25-17. They added a win the second night, also in straight sets, 25-19, 25-21 and 25-22. The Longhorns were ranked No. 4 at the time of the Gopher wins.
Minnesota opened the 2012 season with two wins at the James Madison Invitational last weekend. The Gophers defeated host James Madison in four sets, 25-19, 22-25, 25-16 and 25-14. The Maroon and Gold made quick work against Appalachian State in the second match as it won in three (25-10, 25-14, 25-19). In the opening weekend, senior Katherine Harms paved the way for the Gophers when she had 32 kills. Tori Dixon hit .667 with 25 kills, one error in 36 attempts. Ashley Wittman added 19 kills between the two matches, while freshman Daly Santana had 16. Mia Tabberson and Alexandra Palmer split time as the setter, having 47 and 44 assists respectively. Santana also had four aces, including three in one match.
Last weekend at the JMU Invite, Minnesota had a balanced mix of veterans and rookies competing. Along with returners Tori Dixon, Katherine Harms, Mia Tabberson and Ashley Wittman pacing the team, the Gophers had some make their collegiate debut. Daly Santana and Lindsey Lawmaster both started in their first collegiate matches last weekend. Also making their collegiate debut was Karlie Hauer, Karyn Israel and Kalysta White. Transfers Dana Knudsen and Alexandra Palmer saw significant time last weekend.
Minnesota has a short turnaround as it competes against the No. 2 Texas Longhorns, Sept. 6-7. The Golden Gophers returns to the Sports Pavilion on Monday, Sept. 10 against North Dakota State. After the Golden Hurricane Classic (Sept. 14-15) and matches at Illinois and Northwestern (Sept 21 & 23), Minnesota hosts Ohio State on Sept. 28 and Penn State Sept 29 at the Pav.