Minnesota on the Road for Second-Straight Week at MSU and Michigan

Go Gophers!
Freshman Karlie Hauer

Go Gophers!
Freshman Karlie Hauer
Go Gophers!
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Friday, Nov. 9 Minnesota at Michigan State | 5:30 p.m.
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Saturday, Nov. 10 Minnesota at Michigan | 6 p.m.
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Nov. 7, 2012

Minnesota is on the road for the second-straight weekend as it travels to Michigan State and Michigan, Friday and Saturday nights. Friday’s match against the Spartans will be at 5:30 p.m. CT, while Saturday’s Wolverine contest is set for 6 p.m. CT. Minnesota holds a 48-16 mark all-time against the Spartans, dating back to 1976. Minnesota is also 50-13 all time against the Wolverines. Minnesota earned wins against both teams earlier this year at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota also won both contests on the road last year, Oct. 7-8, 2011.

Tori Dixon has been named the Big Ten Conference's Defensive Player of the Week after stellar performances on the road against No. 3 Penn State and No. 15 Ohio State. The award marks Dixon's second of the year and the Gophers' eighth weekly honor this season. Dixon led the Gophers both offensively and defensively this past weekend against a pair of ranked opponents. Against the Nittany Lions, Dixon hit a team-best .364 clip with nine kills on 22 attempts and just one error. Defensively, she established a career-high with 11 total blocks in the four-set loss. Largely due to Dixon, the Golden Gophers held its highest blocking mark of the season with 16, while the Lions finished with nine. In the match, she held a team-best 17.0 points. Against Ohio State, Dixon hit a match-best .542 with 14 kills and one error in 24 attempts. She again led the Gophers with seven total blocks to help Minnesota to a 13-11 block advantage. On the weekend, Dixon hit .457, recorded 23 kills (2.56 kills per set), 18 blocks (2.00 per set), one assist, one ace and one dig.

Minnesota set a season-best 16 total blocks in the loss to Penn State last week. The last time the Gophers had over 16 team blocks in a match dated back to Nov. 13, 2010 when Minnesota had 17 team blocks against Michigan State in a 3-2 win. In fact, last weekend the Gophers had a total of 29 team blocks on the weekend. Along with the 16 against PSU, Minnesota also established 13 against the Buckeyes. The last time the Gophers had 29 team blocks on a weekend dates back to Nov. 23 and 24, 2007. Minnesota had 22 blocks against Illinois and followed with another 11 against Wisconsin the next day.

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, Minnesota is currently sixth in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which assists in the NCAA tournament selection. Stanford holds the best RPI rating, followed by Texas, Penn State, Nebraska and UCLA. Minnesota has also faced an additional 10 ranked behind the Gophers within the current top 64 teams. In the Big Ten it’s Purdue (19), Ohio State (23), Michigan (28), Illinois (37), Michigan State (41), Northwestern (48) and Wisconsin (58) ranked in the top 64, as well as Gopher 2012 opponents Kansas State (11), Dayton (27 and Tulsa (63). In all, Minnesota has faced 13 teams within the current 64-team field.

Katherine Harms continues to be one of the best attackers in the Big Ten this season. The senior opposite ranks second the Big Ten in kills (averaging 4.23 per set) and third in points (4.90 ps). Harms has continued to improve each season with the Maroon and Gold. As a rookie, she posted 85 total kills in 68 games played. In 2010, she jumped to 165 kills to average 1.72. As a junior last year, Harms had 305 kills and has already produced 381 this season. A six-rotation player, Harms defensive skills have gone up each year as well. After she posted 24 digs as a freshman, Harms had 142 as a sophomore and 177 last year. This year in 90 sets played and 25 matches, Harms has 224 digs. She currently sits at 936 kills (686 as a junior and senior), and 567 digs (401 of those in last two years).

The first match of the weekend will feature statistically two of the best hitters in the Big Ten. MSU’s Lauren Wicinski and Minnesota’s Katherine Harms leads the Big Ten in kills. Wicinski has 424 kills in 96 sets to average 4.42 kills per set. Harms has played in 90 sets, has 381 kills and averages 4.23 kps. Wicinski, a transfer from Northern Illinois, also leads the conference in points per set (5.32) and aces per set (0.62). Harms ranks third in points per set (4.90) and 10th in hitting percentage (.329).

Michigan State enters the Minnesota match with a 19-7 overall record and are 7-7 in the Big Ten. Coming off of a 3-0 win over Iowa and a five-set win over Nebraska, MSU has won its last three of four Big Ten matches. MSU ranks fourth in the Big Ten in hitting percentage (.274), third in kills (1358) and second in aces (96). Along with Lauren Wicinski leading the team in kills per set (4.42) and aces (60), she also ranks third on the team in digs (202). Alexis Matthews leads the team with a .382 hitting percentage and averages 1.22 blocks per set.  Her hitting clip and blocks per set puts her fourth in the Big Ten. Libero Kori Moster averages 4.56 digs per set, which ranks second in the conference.

Michigan enters the weekend with a 19-9 overall record and a 7-7 mark in Big Ten play. The Wolverines have won their last three matches with a 3-0 win over Indiana (10/27), a 3-2 win over Nebraska (11/2) and a 3-0 win over Iowa (11/3). Last weekend, Michigan was down, 2-0 and came back to win in five against Nebraska. The Wolverines then defeated Iowa in straight sets. Michigan is led by Lexi Erwin, who ranks eighth in the conference in kills (404 for 3.92 per set). Jennifer Cross is second on the team as she averages 2.53 kills per set and ranks second in the conference in blocks per set (1.30). Setter Lexi Dannemiller averages 10.77 assists per set as the Wolverines hit a .241 clip. Dannemiller was also the Big Ten’s Setter of the Week against Iowa and Nebraska.

Minnesota returns to the Sports Pavilion, Nov. 16-17 against Nebraska and Iowa. The Huskers comes to town on Nov. 16, followed by Iowa on Nov. 17. The Hawkeye match will also be senior day for Gophers Brianna Haugen, Katherine Harms, Dana Knudsen and Mia Tabberson.

The Big Ten Network has selected the Nov. 16 Minnesota match against Nebraska to be televised live on its network. Due to the television announcement, the match has been moved from 6:30 p.m., to 7 p.m. at the Sports Pavilion. With the addition of the Nov. 16 match, it marks the sixth time this season the Gophers will be televised live. The Gophers have had three matches already on Big Ten Network at Illinois (9/21) and home against Ohio State (9/28) and Michigan (10/3). Minnesota will travel to Penn State on Friday, Nov. 2, also on BTN at 7 p.m. CT, as well as the Nebraska match on Nov. 16. The Gophers were also on ESPN2 at Nebraska earlier this month.