The Minnesota volleyball team (24-8) will face Louisville (21-10) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. on Friday, Dec. 4 at 4:00 p.m. (CT). The other first round matchup will feature host Tennessee (23-7) against Duke (27-5).
On Saturday, Dec. 5, the winner of the Louisville-Minnesota match will face the winner of the Duke-Tennessee at 6 p.m. (CT). All of the Golden Gophers postseason matches can be heard live in the Gold Zone.
“We are always extremely excited to get NCAA Tournament action started,” said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. “Overall, I think the first and second rounds in Tennessee are a very good group of teams, and it is a tough draw. However, when it comes to this time of the year, you have to play really good competition to advance and I think that is the challenge we have in trying to get back to Minneapolis for the Regional Round. I feel very good about the way our team is playing right now. I think we ended off our season with some very strong wins, including a good one last night against a very good Illinois team. We are looking forward to getting NCAA Tournament play started.”
The top team in Minnesota’s region is Florida State, who is the overall No. 3 seed in the tournament. Washington is the No. 6 seed, the Golden Gophers are No. 11 and Oregon is No. 14. Florida State (hosts Alabama A&M, Florida A&M, Jacksonville State), Kentucky (Michigan State, Clemson, Oregon), Tennessee and Colorado State (Middle Tennessee, Northern Colorado and Washington) will be the hosts for the first and second rounds.
Those sites will feed into the Minneapolis Regional on Dec. 11-12. The Regional Semifinals will take place on Friday, Dec. 11 at 5 and 7 p.m. and the Regional Final will be on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN 2.
All Session tickets are on sale for $25 for chairbacks, $20 for general admission and $15 for senior or student rates. Tickets can be purchased in person starting on the morning of Monday, Nov. 30, over the phone at 1-800-UGOPHER or online at gophersports.com.
Since seeding the top 16 seeds begin in 2000 in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament, Minnesota has been seeded No. 13 or higher seven times. The Golden Gophers were seeded No. 4 in 2000, No. 7 in 2002, No. 13 in 2003, No. 4 in 2004, No. 8 in 2006 and No. 6 in 2008.
This marks the fifth time in six years that the Golden Gophers have been sent on the road for the first and second rounds. In 2005, Minnesota was also in Knoxville, Tenn. where it lost a five-set match to a Lady Vols team that made the Final Four that year. In 2006, the Golden Gophers defeated Siena and St. John’s in Albany on their way to the Regional Finals. Minnesota also lost to Sacramento State in the first round in 2007 at Stanford.
The last time the Golden Gophers hosted the NCAA Regionals was in 2004 when they defeated Georgia Tech and Ohio State in five sets on the way to a National Championship appearance. That year, Minnesota defeated Long Island and Yale in New Haven, Conn. in the first two rounds.
This year’s NCAA Tournament selection marks the 11th straight year the Golden Gophers have participated in the event. That streak is currently the second longest in the Big Ten.
Minnesota finished the regular-season 24-8 and was third in the Big Ten at 15-5. It marked the 10th time in 11 years that the Golden Gophers finished third or higher. Minnesota has now won at least 15 matches in conference play in eight of the last 11 season, and has finished regular-season with at least 24 wins in six of the last 11 years. The Golden Gophers finished the season by winning seven of their final eight matches.
Louisville enters the tournament with a 21-10 overall record, finished fourth in the regular-season in Big East play at 10-4 and won the conference tournament to claim the Big East’s automatic bid. The Golden Gophers and Louisville last met Sept. 9, 2006 in the Ameritas Players Challenge in Lincoln, Neb.
Duke, who received an at-large bid out of the ACC, enters the tournament with a 27-5 overall record and finished second in the conference at 17-3. Minnesota met the Blue Devils once on Sept. 10, 1994 in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Tennessee, who received an at-large bid out of the SEC, enters the tournament with a 23-7 overall record and finished second in the SEC at 16-4. The Lady Vols hosted first and second rounds in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, they made it to the Final Four after defeating Jacksonville State and Minnesota in the first and second rounds. In 2006, Duke defeated Tennessee in the first round at home.
Six Big Ten teams made the field of 64, including the Golden Gophers. Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State will join Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament. Four Big Ten teams also received top 16 seeds. Penn State (No. 1), Illinois (No. 5) and Michigan (No. 13) joined the Golden Gophers on the list.
Overall, Minnesota will be making its 15th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, and its 13th undercurrent head coach Mike Hebert. The Golden Gophers advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals in 2003, 04 and 06, the NCAA National Semifinals in 2003 and 2004 and have also played in the NCAA Regional round in six of the last 10 seasons
Minnesota is 26-14 in 40 NCAA Tournament matches. The Golden Gophers have also gone 13-1 in first round matches and 12-2 in home NCAA Tournament matches.