The Minnesota volleyball team will hit the road for the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight year, as it heads to Stanford, Calif. Minnesota will face Sacramento State (28-7) on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. (CT). The other first-round matchup will feature top seeded Stanford (27-2) and Santa Clara (19-11) on Friday, Nov. 30 at 9:30 p.m. (CT). The winners of the two matches will play in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 10 p.m. (CT). The Hornets claimed the automatic bid for the Big Sky by winning the conference tournament. The Cardinal received the No. 1 seed in the region, and are the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Stanford received the Pac-10’s automatic bid by finishing first in the conference at 16-2. Santa Clara claimed the automatic out of the West Coast Conference by finishing in first place at 11-3 in conference play. UCLA is the No. 2 team in the region (No. 8 overall), Kansas State is No. 3 (No. 9 overall) and Cal Poly is No. 4 (No. 16 overall).
Minnesota is 12-0 in 12 first round NCAA Tournament matches coming into this year. The Golden Gophers are 10-0 in first round matches under current head coach Mike Hebert. Before Hebert, Minnesota won first-round matches against Colorado (3-0 in 1989) and Ball State (3-0 in 1993). In Hebert’s 10 first-round matchups at Minnesota, he has defeated Central Florida at home (3-2 in 1996), Miami (Ohio) at Provo, Utah in three games in 1997, Sacramento State in three games at Los Angeles in 1999, Robert Morris at home (3-0 in 2000), DePaul at Cedar Falls, Iowa in three games in 2001, New Hampshire at home (3-0 in 2002), Wisconsin-Green Bay at home (3-0 in 2003), Long Island (3-0 in 2004) at New Haven, Conn., Winthrop (3-0 in 2005) at Knoxville, Tenn. and Siena 3-0 at Albany, N.Y. in 2006.
Minnesota is one of only eight teams in the nation to advance to six or more regionals over the course of the past eight seasons. The Golden Gophers advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals in 2003, 2004 and 2006, and went all the way to the Final Four in 2003 and 2004. Minnesota faced Stanford in the National Championship in 2004. The Golden Gophers also advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals in 1999, 2000, 2002, as well as 2003, 2004 and 2006. Nebraska and Hawai’i are the only programs to advance to NCAA Regional play every year since 1999. UCLA and Florida have gone to the NCAA Regionals seven of the eight years in that span of time. Minnesota, Penn State, Stanford and USC close out the list of teams that have made it six times since 1999.
Minnesota is playing in its ninth straight NCAA Tournament. The Golden Gophers have played in every NCAA Tournament since 1999. That string of nine straight is the 13th-longest active string of appearances heading into the 2007 NCAA Tournament. It is also the third-longest string of NCAA Tournaments by a Big Ten team. Stanford and Penn State are the only teams to have made every NCAA Tournament since 1981. Nebraska is third with 26 straight appearances. Long Beach State (21), Florida (17), USC (17), Hawai’i (15), Colorado State (13), Wisconsin (12) and UCLA (11) round out the top 10. Louisville and Santa Clara have also been to 10 straight NCAA Tournaments. Including his time at Illinois, Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert has advanced to 22 of the last 23 NCAA Tournaments. The only year he missed the NCAA Tournament was in 1998 at Minnesota. He took the Golden Gophers to the tournament in his first year in 1997 and went every year from 1985 to 1996 at Illinois.