Aug. 31, 2011
Live Video - Gopher All-Access Subscription
Minnesota Volleyball opens its home season hosting No. 4 Texas in the Diet Coke Classic this weekend. The tournament looks a little different than in years past, marking the first time only one team has competed against Minnesota during the event. In 2010, Minnesota faced Baylor, Northern Iowa and Dayton and went 2-1. The Golden Gophers defeated Baylor, 3-1, lost to UNI, 2-3, and won over Dayton, 3-0. Both teams will need to prepare this weekend a little differently as it is more of a series against two highly competitive teams.
"The Texas matches will be interesting because I've never played the same team back-to-back nights," Mia Tabberson said. "It'll be a whole new learning lesson to figure out how to do that. Obviously, you want to go out and win the first match. Then coming out the second night and refocusing a second time, it's going to be a challenge in its own way. It'll also be really nice because we can implement a game plan one night and we can see how it works, and then we've got a second chance to kind of revamp things--change what we want to change, stick with what was working--and then come out a second night. It'll be a very nice challenge."
Minnesota is used to playing at this high level and have faced Texas once in the last two years. The last time Minnesota and Texas played against each other dates back to the 2009 National Semifinal when Minnesota fell to Texas in three sets. Ranked 11th in the nation to the Longhorns' No. 2, Minnesota fell in three (25-19, 25-20, 25-15) in 2009. The Gophers and the Longhorns will meet for only the fourth and fifth time in school history this weekend. Prior to the NCAA match in 2009, Minnesota defeated Texas in Hawai'i on Sept. 3, 1995 (five sets). Minnesota lost in four sets in Springfield, Mo. in the first meeting on Oct. 10, 1981.
On its home court, Minnesota 28-10 in home openers, dating back to 1973. In the last 10 years, Minnesota has gone 9-1 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. Like Texas this season, California played in the 2008 Diet Coke Classic and were ranked No. 4 in the country. The Gophers were victorious over the Bears in 2008 in three sets. That win marked the highest ranked opponent the Gophers faced to start the home season and also marked the highest ranked team that Minnesota has ever defeated.
Both teams opened the season last weekend and competed in tournaments. Minnesota went 1-1 at the AVCA Showcase as it fell to No. 2 in five sets to No. 2 USC (8/26) and then won in five sets against Oregon (8/27). Numerous members of the Golden Gopher squad had a career-high weekend. Against USC, Tori Dixon held a .410 hitting percentage and had a career-high 22 kills. Mia Tabberson had a career high in assists when she held 61. In Saturday's match, Ashley Wittman led the Gophers scoring drive when she had a career-high 27 kills and five aces. Wittman ended the weekend with 45 kills. Jessica Granquist had 19 digs in the USC match and 26 against Oregon. Both Wittman and Granquist landed a spot on the AVCA All-Tournament Team.
Texas went 2-0 last weekend and hosted the Burnt Orange Classic. The Longhorns had a win over Pepperdine (3-1) last Friday and Ole Miss (3-1) last Saturday. Currently ranked fourth overall in the AVCA poll, Texas returns four starters to the mix this season. Competing in its third-straight NCAA Semifinal, Texas finished 2010 with a 27-6 record and a No. 4 ranking. Head coach Jerritt Elliot is in his 11th year at the helm of Texas Volleyball and holds a Texas record of 241-70. Middle blocker and 2010 All-American Rachel Adams led the NCAA with a .443 hitting percentage. She was named the 2011 Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year. Amber Robertson was also named a 2011 Preseason All-Big 12 this season after she ranked ranked third on the club with 2.84 kps last season. After the first weekend of play this season, Adams had a .500 hitting percentage and 14 blocks, while Haley Eckerman had 23 kills and Khat Bell had 24.
Fans can watch or listen to the Minnesota/Texas matches over the course of the weekend. Both matches will have video webcast, live through the Gopher All-Access package. Free audio will also be available as well as gametracker and a live blog.