|| Minnesota at Texas
The University of Minnesota volleyball program visits Austin, Texas to take on the Texas Longhorns, Sept. 6-7. Both matches are set for 6:30 p.m. starts. This will be the first ranked team Minnesota will face this season as the Longhorns are ranked fourth in the AVCA poll. Both contests will also be televised by the Texas Longhorn Network. A Minnesota live in-game chat will be available for both matches.
The Golden Gophers return to the Sports Pavilion on Monday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m., 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.
The Big Ten Conference announced that Tori Dixon has been named Co-Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following her performance in the Diet Coke Classic. The weekly honor is the first of Dixon's Gopher career. She shared the award with Michigan State's libero Kori Moster. Dixon, a 6-foot, 3-inch middle blocker aided the Gophers to a three-match weekend sweep en route to a Diet Coke Classic tournament championship. Posting 34 kills in 44 attempts, the Burnsville, Minn., native had just two attack errors and hit a team-best .727 in the tournament. On the weekend, Dixon had 14 total blocks (3 solo, 11 assists), averaging 1.6 blocks per set as she was named to the all-tournament team. Along with her blocking abilities, Dixon also held 10 digs in nine sets and provided three service aces. As a team, Dixon and the Gophers held a .490 hitting percentage this past weekend and just 21 errors in 239 total swings. On the season, Dixon has 59 kills in (59-3-80) for a .700 hitting percentage and 19 total blocks.
Minnesota has hit well as a team already in this early season. In five matches this season, the Golden Gophers have hit over .500 in two matches (LIU Brooklyn, Miami), two over .400 (Appalachian State and Albany) and the season's lowest that dipped to .385 (James Madison). The JMU contest is the only set the Gophers have lost this season. Individually, a few Gophers have already hit career highs in the same category. Katherine Harms held a career-best .680 when she had 18 kills on 25 attempts with just one error. In the same match, Ashley Wittman hit a career-best .824, also against LIU Brooklyn. In her opening match this season, Tori Dixon had 14 kills in 16 attempts for a career-best .875 against James Madison.
Minnesota holds a narrow lead in the all-time series between the Gophers and the Texas Longhorns, 3-2. The Gophers and Longhorns will play against each other for the sixth and seventh time all-time this week. Minnesota defeated Texas in back-to-back matches last year at the Sports Pavilion to open the home season. Prior to the matches in 2011, Texas defeated Minnesota, straight sets, in the 2009 NCAA Final Four.
Texas visited Minnesota on Sept. 2-3, 2011 as the Golden Gophers swept the Longhorns in both matches. Minnesota opened the weekend with a 25-20, 25-20 and 25-17 win as Katherine Harms had a then-career-high 17 kills and a .441 hitting percentage, while Tori Dixon hit .500 for 11 kills and three aces. In the second match the following day, Minnesota accomplished a three-set win, 25-19, 25-21, 25-22. Former Gopher Ariana Filho led the team with a .733 hitting percentage, while Dixon had a career-high five aces. The Horns' back-to-back losses mark the first time Texas had been swept in consecutive matches since Oct. 2 and 4, 2000 and the first time under head coach Jerritt Elliott.
Co-incidentally, Texas was ranked No. 4 at the time of last year's matches as well. Minnesota was ranked 11th last year and are currently ranked 14th in this week's AVCA poll. Following the match wins, Minnesota held its highest ranking of the 2011 season (6th), while Texas dropped to 10.
The Longhorns enter the Minnesota series with a 5-1 overall record, dropping their 2012 first contest against Penn State last weekend. Prior to the Penn State loss, Texas defeated LSU, Cal Poly, San Diego, West Virginia and Florida, all in straight sets. Texas returns Bailey Webster, a junior outside hitter, who was an AVCA First Team All-American last year, as well as the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year. In 2012, Webster holds a 3.44 kills per set and a team second-best 62 kills. Outside hitter Haley Eckerman returns for her sophomore season and leads the team in kills (79), kills per set (4.39) and aces (10). Eckerman was named the 2011 AVCA/Volleyball Magazine National Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big 12 honors. Sophomore MB/OH Khat Bell also returns to the Longhorn lineup after she received 2011 All-Big 12 honorable mention honors.
The Gophers hold a 65-19 all-time record against current Big 12 opponents. Minnesota has competed against Iowa State the most as it holds a 23-7 all-time record, most recently in the 2011 NCAA Sweet Sixteen. The Gophers hold a 15-2 record against Kansas State and a 12-4 record against Kansas. Prior to Nebraska moving from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, Minnesota held a 4-26 mark against the Cornhuskers.
The University of Minnesota volleyball program is ranked 14th in the recent AVCA Top 25 poll, announced Sept. 3 by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The Gophers have now been ranked in the AVCA Top 25 for 65 straight weeks dating back to the final poll in 2007. That extends Minnesota's record-breaking streak of consecutive weeks in the top 25. Nebraska is in its second week at the No. 1 spot, followed by Penn State, UCLA and Texas. Minnesota is one of seven Big Ten institutions ranked. Along with Nebraska and Penn State, Purdue (11) is ranked ahead of the Golden Gophers, while Illinois (20) and Michigan (23) finish the top 25. Ohio State and Michigan State are receiving votes. Along with facing five ranked conference opponents, Minnesota will compete against four non-conference teams who are ranked or receiving votes this season. Along with the No. 4 Longhorns, Minnesota competes against No. 10 Dayton and No. 22 Kansas State, Sept 14-15, at the Hurricane Invite in Tulsa, Okla.