Nov. 15, 2011
The No. 19 University of Minnesota volleyball program hits the road for the first time since Oct. 29 when it travels to No. 4 Nebraska Wednesday night in Lincoln, Neb. The Golden Gophers and the Cornhuskers will face off at 7 p.m. and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Fans who aren't making the trip to Lincoln can follow the Gophers in a number of ways. Big Ten Network will televise the match live. Gophersports.com will also have free audio available as well as a live in-game chat.
Wednesday's match marks the first time since 2006 the Gophers have visited the Coliseum as part of the Ameritas Players Challenge. Minnesota fell to the Huskers in four (28-30, 30-25, 30-22, 30-22) on Sept 10, 2006. With that time span, the match marks the first time the entire Minnesota roster has played in the Coliseum. In fact, the last time a Minnesota coach or player has been to the Coliseum dates back to when Laura Bush was an assistant coach at Michigan State.
In that Sept. 10, 2006 match, Nebraska outhit Minnesota .337 to .256 for the match, and had 73 kills to 66 for the Golden Gophers. The two teams both finished with seven blocks. Nebraska outdug Minnesota 70 to 62 for the match. The Cornhuskers also had five service aces to eight service errors, while the Golden Gophers totaled two service aces and 14 service errors for the match.
Nebraska enters the match with a 21-3 overall record and a 14-2 mark within conference action. Like Minnesota, Nebraska is coming off a loss to a ranked team as it fell to the No. 10 Purdue on Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind. (25-19, 25-19, 25-16). The Cornhuskers hold a perfect 11-0 mark within the confines of the Coliseum this season. Nebraska's only losses this year are on the road at Colorado State (9/2), at Penn State (10/29) and last weekend at Purdue. The Huskers are led by a trio of hitters, Gina Mancuso, Morgan Broekhuis and Hannah Werth. Mancuso averages 3.62 kills per set, while Broekhuis averages 3.12 and Werth is at 2.69. Hayley Thramer leads the team with 90 total blocks, averaging 1.23 per set.
Minnesota holds a 4-28 mark against the Cornhuskers all-time. Minnesota has lost the last 13 matches against the Huskers, including a 3-2 loss in the two teams last meeting.
Although the then-No. 14 Gophers won the first two sets, No. 5 Nebraska stormed back and won the next three to defeat the Golden Gophers, 3-2, on Oct. 15, in front of 9,354 fans. The Gophers won the first two sets, 30-28, 25-19, but fell in the next three, 10-25, 12-25 and 11-15. Minnesota was led by Ashley Wittman, who had a match-high 22 kills and had a double double with 12 digs. Katherine Harms had 14 kills, while Tori Dixon had 12 kills and hit a team-best .286. Jessica Granquist had a team-best 20 digs, while Hailey Cowles had 18.
Minnesota is eighth overall in the Division I RPI. Illinois ranks first with a 24-3 record, while Iowa State is ranked second (20-4), followed by Nebraska in third (21-3) overall mark. in third. Texas is fourth (18-4), Purdue is fifth (24-3) and Northern Iowa is sixth (28-1). Of the top six teams in the RPI standings, Minnesota has faced five of them. UNI's only loss this season was to Minnesota on Sept. 10.
Along with Illinois, Nebraska, Purdue and Minnesota, the Big Ten Conference has a total of five ranked in the top 25 RPI. Penn State is ranked 12th, while Michigan is 25th, Michigan State 38th, Ohio State 46th and Wisconsin 52nd.
The University of Minnesota volleyball program ranks 19th in the AVCA Top 25 poll, announced Nov. 14 by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The Gophers have now been ranked in the AVCA Top 25 for 61 straight weeks dating back to the final poll in 2007. That extends Minnesota's record-breaking streak of consecutive weeks in the top 25.
Minnesota is joined by six Big Ten teams, including three in the top 10. Nebraska holds the Big Ten's highest ranking at No. 4, while Illinois is seventh, Purdue at eight and Penn State is 12th. Following behind Minnesota's No. 19 ranking is Michigan (23) and Ohio State (25). Michigan State and Wisconsin are receiving votes.
Junior right side hitter Katherine Harms has been putting up the numbers here in the second half of the season and has had 11 double digit kill matches since the start of October. She had a career-high 19 against Michigan (10/7) and in the past four have had 10 against Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State, while posting 13 against Michigan (11/13). Since her career-high Wolverine match, the only time she hasn't had double digits was in the three-set win against Illinois (10/29).
Last week, Minnesota earned a 3-0 win over Michigan State, on Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the Sports Pavilion. The Maroon and Gold were led by Ashley Wittman as she had 11 kills and 11 digs for her 15th double double of the season. Katherine Harms also reached double digit mark when she had 10 kills, while Hailey Cowles had seven kills and a match-high 17 digs. Kellie McNeil had a match-high 35 assists and a career-high four aces.
For the first time since 2009, Minnesota was swept at home by an opponent, falling to No. 24 Michigan, Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Sports Pavilion (25-21, 25-21, 25-22). The Gophers were led by Harms and Dixon, who both had double digit kills on Sunday. Harms recorded a double double with 13 kills and 12 digs. Dixon finished the match with 11 kills, nine digs, two blocks and a service ace. Dixon also had a team-high hitting percentage (.417).
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, all teams will be awaiting to hear if it is a part of the second season. The NCAA field of 64 for the 2011 DI women's volleyball tournament will be announced at 5 p.m. CT Nov. 27 on ESPNU.
The University of Minnesota will also be hosting one of the NCAA Regionals. The NCAA has announced the start times for Minnesota's regionals. On Friday, Dec. 9, the NCAA Regional Semifinals will be held a 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., both on ESPN 3. On Saturday, Dec. 10, the Regional Final will be held at 8:30 p.m. and will be shown on ESPN U. Tickets are now on sale for the NCAA Regional. All session reserved chair back is $25. All session adult general admission is $20, while all session student/youth/senior general admission is $15. Single session tickets will go on sale the week of the tournament. Fans can purchase tickets through mygophersports.com or by calling the Gopher ticket office at 1-800 UGOPHER or 612-624-8080.
Minnesota will continue road action this weekend as it travels to Iowa City, Iowa to face the Iowa Hawkeyes on Saturday. The Gophers and Hawkeyes will go head to head at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. After the road weekend, Minnesota will compete in its third-straight Wednesday match as it hosts rival Wisconsin on Nov. 23. The Gophers then book end Thanksgiving, hosting Indiana on Nov. 25.