For the second night in a row, the fifth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team rallied from a 2-1 deficit, as the Golden Gophers defeated No. 4 Florida in five games by scores of 30-22, 28-30, 26-30, 30-26, 17-15. The win over the fourth-ranked Gators was the highest ranked opponent Minnesota has defeated in the Sports Pavilion, and matched last year's victory in the NCAA Regional Semifinals over No. 4 Pepperdine for the highest ranked win in school history.
Minnesota has now won seven straight matches dating back to 2002 when it has trailed 2-1.
With the win, the Golden Gophers moved to 2-0 in the Diet Coke Classic, while Florida finished at 2-1. Kansas State finished at 1-2 for the tournament with a three-game win over Northern Iowa earlier in the day. Northern Iowa is 0-2 in the Diet Coke Classic.
"That is the second night in a row we have come back from a two-to- one deficit to win in five games against two nationally ranked programs," said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. "The respect that Florida holds in the volleyball world is extremely high and to beat that type of program is a very special thing. I thought both teams, at times, showed tremendous athleticism. It was great match between two very good teams, and we are proud of the fact that we came with the victory tonight."
Trisha Bratford (Reseda, Calif.) and Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) led the way for Minnesota with 17 and 16 kills respectively. Martin also had four blocks. Sophomore Meredith Nelson had a career-high 15 kills, along with five blocks. Senior setter Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) tied a career-high with eight kills, and also had 55 assists and 26 digs.
Paula Gentil (Forteleaza Ceara', Brazil) had a match-high 31 digs. Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) also had a triple-double with 11 kills, 15 assists and 19 digs.
Minnesota jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a 30-22 game one victory. Florida came right back taking the next two games 30-28 and 30-26 to go up 2-1. The Golden Gophers responded in the fourth game by racing out to a 15-7 lead. Minnesota extended its lead to 20-11, before Florida cut it back to 22-16. From that point the Golden Gophers scored eight of the next 10 points to close out the game at 30-18 to tie the match at 2-2.
In game five, Minnesota raced out to a 5-1 lead behind three kills and block from Martin. However, Florida scored nine of the next 12 points to jump out to a 10-8 lead over the Golden Gophers. Minnesota retook the lead 13-12 on a Florida ballhandling error. The Gators tied it, but Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) put down a kill to give Minnesota match point at 14-13. Florida fought it off to tie the game at 14, but Martin came back with a kill to give the Golden Gophers a second game point at 15-14. The Gators tied it again at 15. Bratford delivered a kill to give Minnesota game point at 16-15. The Golden Gophers closed it out on an error by the Gators to claim the match.
Martin paced Minnesota with five kills in the fifth game.
"I am happy with the effort of our team tonight," said Florida Head Coach Mary Wise. "I could not be more pleased that in the midst of a ten-game road trip our team went toe-to-toe with a very good Minnesota team at home. Minnesota did a very a good job transitioning from defense offense. Their ability to do that is about as good as I have seen."
Minnesota jumped out to a 16-13 lead in game one, but Florida cut it to 19-18. Bratford and Martin had consecutive kills to put Minnesota up 21-18, and Brynes and Martin combined on a block to make it 22-18. The Golden Gophers pushed it to game point with seven of the next 11 points to go up 29-22. Taatjes put the game away with a kill to give Minnesota a 30-22 game-one victory.
The Golden Gophers outhit the Gators .286 to .174 in the game. Bratford paced Minnesota with five kills in the game.
Minnesota jumped out to a 13-9 lead in game two, but Florida turned the tables quickly with eight of the next 10 points to go up 18-15. Minnesota scored five of the next seven points, and tied the score at 20 on Byrnes kill. Florida answered right back with three straight points to go up 23-20. The Golden Gophers trimmed it down 28-27, but the Gators scored two of the last three points to take game two 30-28 to even the match a one game apiece.
Florida had 23 kills to Minnesota's 18 in the game. Byrnes and Bowman each had four kills in the game.
The Gators jumped out to a 15-11 lead in game three. Minnesota scored five of the next seven points to cut it to 17-16. Florida again pushed the lead to 20-17, but the Golden Gophers reeled them in to tie the game at 24. The Gators scored the next two points, and maintained the necessary breathing room to take game three 30-26, which gave them a 2-1 lead in the match.
Florida outhit Minnesota .148 to -.017 in the game. The Golden Gophers had 31 digs as a team with Gentil and Taatjes each putting up 10 apiece. Nelson paced Minnesota with six kills in the game.
"Defense is always a big part of our success," said Nelson. "I think the turning point tonight was turning our defense into offense. Every time we dug a ball, we tried to transition it into an advantage on offense for us. We started doing that a lot better in the fourth and fifth games."
Minnesota outhit Florida .177 to .135 on the night, and had 78 kills to 70 for the Gators. The Golden Gophers also had 112 digs to tie a school record for a rally-scoring match. Florida had 101 digs in the match.
The match time of two hours and 39 minutes was the longest match Minnesota has played in the rally-scoring format.
Jane Collymore paced the Gators with 28 kills and 18 digs for the match. Sherri Williams also had 14 kills and six blocks, while Michelle Chatman had 11 kills and seven blocks.
Minnesota will finish up the Diet Coke Classic when it takes on Northern Iowa on Sunday, Sept. 12 at 1 p.m. That match will be webcast on gophersports.com