|| Minnesota vs. Nebraska/Iowa
Minnesota returns to the Sports Pavilion confines as it hosts Nebraska and Iowa this weekend. Friday's match is at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network, while Saturday's match against Iowa is at 6:30 p.m. 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.
Minnesota closes out the regular season with a split week against Wisconsin and Indiana. The Gophers travel to Wisconsin on Wed., Nov. 21 for a 7 p.m. match. Minnesota will then end the regular season when it travels to Indiana for its lone meeting against the Hoosiers. That match is set for 6 p.m. CT in Bloomington, Ind.
Minnesota's trip to Michigan State and Michigan put the Gophers with two straight-losses to a conference opponent. It was the first time this year the Gophers lost back-to-back matches. The Cliff Keen Arena at Michigan hasn't been kind to the Gophers. Minnesota has only won there once dating back to 2005. The Gophers defeated the Wolverines after erasing a 2-0 deficit in 2011 for their lone win in seven years.
Minnesota is currently tied for third in the Big Ten Conference standings. Penn State holds a 15-1 conference record, while Nebraska is at 12-4. Minnesota and Ohio State hold a tie for third (11-5), followed by Purdue at 10-6. With four matches remaining in the regular season, it's a race to see where all the teams place at the end of the year.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Minnesota is currently eighth in the NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), which assists in the NCAA tournament selection. Stanford holds the best RPI rating, followed by Penn State, Texas, Nebraska and Louisville. Minnesota has also faced an additional 10 ranked behind the Gophers within the current top 64 teams. In the Big Ten it's Purdue (20), Ohio State (23), Michigan (26), Michigan State (38), Illinois (40) and Northwestern (50) ranked in the top 64, as well as Gopher 2012 opponents Kansas State (15), Dayton (29) and Tulsa (57). In all, Minnesota has faced 12 teams within the current 64-team field. A .500 conference record is needed, however, to qualify for the tournament.
It's a tale of two records for the Gopher competition this weekend. Minnesota holds a 69-12 all-time mark against the Iowa Hawkeyes, dating back to 1975. Minnesota defeated Iowa in four sets earlier this year in Iowa City, Iowa. The last time the Gophers fell to the Hawkeyes dates back to Sept. 22, 1995 at Iowa (3-1). Minnesota, however, is just 4-29 against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, also dating back to 1975. Minnesota lost in four to the Huskers on Oct. 14 in Lincoln, Neb.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers enter the weekend with a 20-5 overall record and a 12-4 mark within Big Ten play. Like Minnesota, the Huskers fell in two-straight games at Michigan and Michigan State two weeks ago before they earned home wins against Indiana (3-1) and Purdue (3-2) last weekend. Holding the No. 2 spot in the Big Ten, the Huskers rank third in team hitting percentage (.286) and second in blocks per set at 2.71. Nebraska is led by Gina Mancuso, who has 327 kills this season, which averages 3.44 kills per set. Despite missing the Michigan match, Hannah Werth ranks second with 260 kills (2.69 kps), while Morgan Broekhuis has 253 kills (2.81 kps). Lauren Cook ranks third in the conference in assists per set (10.95), while Lara Dykstra is the starting libero and is second on the team in digs (287) to Werth's 297.
Iowa enters the weekend with a 10-19 overall record and are 2-14 in conference play. After its win against Purdue on Oct. 6, the Hawkeyes will look to break a 10-match losing streak this weekend. Since taking Wisconsin to five on Oct. 13, Iowa has lost the last eight matches in straight sets, including losses to Purdue and Indiana last weekend at home. The Hawkeyes are led by Alex Lovell, who has 339 kills and averages 3.17 kills per set. Rachael Bedell has 307 kills (3.01 kps), while Alessandra Dietz has 178. Iowa ranks second in the conference in digs, which is led primarily by libero Bethany Yeager who has 494 this year and averages 4.62 per set.
Minnesota fell in four sets to then-No. 3 Nebraska, Oct. 14, in Lincoln, Neb. Minnesota was led by Tori Dixon, who had a match-best 16 kills and hit .682 (16-1-22). Ashley Wittman recorded her fourth-straight double double match when she had 14 kills and 10 digs. Katherine Harms had 13 kills and 12 digs, while Daly Santana had 13 kills and seven digs to hit for .303. Alexandra Palmer also had a double double when she had 49 assists and a team-high 14 digs.
Minnesota defeated the Iowa Hawkeyes in four sets, 26-24, 18-25, 25-15 and 25-17 in Iowa City, Iowa on Oct. 12. Minnesota was led by three with double-digit kills in Ashley Wittman (16 kills), Katherine Harms (15) and Tori Dixon (14), while Daly Santana had nine. The Golden Gophers also had four individuals with double-digit digs as Wittman had a team-high 17, Santana had 16, Lindsey Lawmaster had 15 and Katherine Harms with 11. Dana Knudsen hit a team-best .462 when she had seven kills on 13 swings and just one error. Alexandra Palmer had a match-high 51 assists. As a team, the Gophers outhit the Hawkeyes, .236 to .182, out dug them, 74-65 and had six aces.