Sept. 11, 2013
The Golden Gophers return to the road for the second time in three weeks as Minnesota competes in the Bluegrass Battle in Lexington, Ky., Sept. 13-14. Friday's match is set against Louisville, while Saturday's match is against No. 19 Kentucky. All matches will be played at the Memorial Coliseum.
Louisville and Kentucky competed in head-to-head competition on Tuesday night as the host Wildcats defeated Louisville, 3-2. In a close match, Louisville won the first and fourth sets, while Kentucky won the second, third and fifth set, 15-11. Louisville competed in Fargo, N.D., last weekend and went 1-2. It defeated North Dakota State in three, but dropped back-to-back matches against Northern Iowa and Wisconsin in straight sets. The Cardinals, who dropped out of the polls and are still receiving votes, are now 2-4 on the season. They defeated Syracuse on Aug. 30 and fell to Penn State on Aug. 31 to open the 2013 campaign.
Kentucky enters the weekend with a 5-2 record, including a five-game win streak. After opening the season with a pair of losses to Florida State (3-0) and Illinois (3-2), the Wildcats have won their last five against the likes of Long Beach State (3-0), VCU (3-2), Liberty (3-0), ETSU (3-0) and now Louisville (3-2). Making it to the Sweet 16 last year and in the same Regional as Minnesota, Kentucky is currently ranked 19th in the AVCA poll.
Minnesota is off to its best start since 2000 as the Gophers enter the weekend with a perfect 7-0 record. The start is also the Gophers' best since the game switched to rally scoring (NCAA Volleyball established rally scoring in 2001). Minnesota opened the season with four wins at the UAB/Samford Challenge (8/30-31), followed by another three last weekend at the Diet Coke Classic (9/6-7). Last year, the Gophers held a 6-0 record before they dropped a four-set decision to Texas. In 2000, Minnesota went 15 matches without a loss. Minnesota has yet to drop a set in the 2013 season as all have been 3-0 wins.
Minnesota won its own tournament last weekend as Ball State, Western Illinois and Duke came to the Sports Pavilion. The Golden Gophers won all three in straight sets to improve to 7-0 on the season. Tori Dixon was named the tournament's MVP, while Alexandra Palmer and Ashley Wittman were named all-tournament. Minnesota played 15 on its roster last weekend, including Karlie Hauer, who had a career-high eight kills in the Western Illinois match. Dixon hit .574 on the weekend, while Wittman had 38 kills and Palmer added 89 assists. It was the first collegiate matches for Katie Schau and Kalei Mau.
Minnesota will be on the road for the third and final time of the non-conference schedule as it competes in the Dartmouth Duels, Sept. 20-21, hosted by the Big Green in Hanover. N.H. Minnesota will face four teams in Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut and Dartmouth. The Gophers open the Big Ten Conference season at home against Indiana, Sept. 25 at the Sports Pavilion.
In two straight weeks, senior middle blocker Tori Dixon has received her second Big Ten weekly award, announced Monday by the conference office. Dixon was named this week's Defensive Player of the Week after her performance in the Diet Coke Classic. She received Player of the Week laurels on Sept. 2 and is garnering her fourth career defensive player of the week honor.
The six-rotation middle blocker was named the Diet Coke Classic's Most Valuable Player this past weekend as the Golden Gophers won the tournament in three, 3-0 decisions. Dixon hit .574 in the tournament when she averaged 4.89 kills per set, 44 kills, two assists, four aces, nine digs and 15 total blocks. Over the course of the tournament, Dixon committed just five errors in 68 attempts. She gained 56.0 points this past weekend for the Gophers as they improve to 7-0 this season.
For the second-straight week, he University of Minnesota volleyball program is ranked fourth in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Minnesota, which held the No. 6 spot in the preseason, cracked the top-five after a 4-0 record in the he UAB/Samford Challenge. The Gophers remained at No. 4 following the Diet Coke Classic. For the third-straight week, a new No. 1 was announced as Southern Cal took over the top spot. Texas is ranked No. 2, followed by Penn State at No. 3. In all, the Big Ten Conference has nine in the latest poll. Along with the Nittany Lions and the Gophers, Michigan is also in the top 10 at No. 7. Also in the poll is Nebraska (12), Ohio State (13), Illinois (14), Michigan State (15), Purdue (22) and Wisconsin (25).