The Minnesota volleyball team will host North Dakota State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament at the Sports Pavilion on Friday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. Creighton and Iowa State will play in the first match of the day on Dec. 3 at 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Dec. 4, the winners of the two matches will face each other. The winner of this weekend’s bracket will play the winner of the Cal bracket in Seattle, Wash. in the Regional Semifinals. The Cal bracket includes No. 7 seed Cal, Mississippi, North Carolina and Utah State. Minnesota is No. 3 seed in the region (No. 10 overall), while Nebraska is No. 1 (No. 2 overall), Cal is No. 2 (No. 7 overall) and Hawai'i is No. 4 (No. 15 overall).
Minnesota enters the NCAA Tournament on a seven-match winning streak, after going 9-1 in the second half of Big Ten play to finish second in the conference at 14-6. The Gophers ended the regular-season with a 24-8 overall record for the second year in a row. The Gophers are led by First-Team All-Big Ten middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer, who has 3.24 kps, 1.43 blps and is hitting .378. The 1.43 blps is tied for the lead in Big Ten play.
Sophomore Tabi Love is averaging 3.45 kps and 1.51 dps heading into NCAA Tournament play, while Ashley Wittman has 3.29 kps, 3.04 dps and 0.70 blps. Wittman is five kills away from becoming the fifth Gopher freshman in school history to have 400 kills in a season. She is also 35 digs away from 400. That would make her the first freshman in school history to have 400 kills and digs in a season. Tori Dixon, who was named Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten, is averaging 2.42 kps and 0.92 blps.
Junior libero Jessica Granquist, who was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Big Ten, leads the Big Ten with 5.07 dps. Sophomore Mia Tabberson has 10.36 aps and 1.55 dps. Tabberson is also averaging 11.31 aps in the last six matches.
Minnesota is 14-1 in 15 first round NCAA Tournament matches. The Gophers are 12-1 in first round matches under current head coach Mike Hebert. Before Hebert, Minnesota won home first round matches against Colorado (1989) and Ball State (1993). In Hebert’s first 10 first round matches, the Golden Gophers defeated Central Florida (1996), Miami (Ohio) (1997), Sacramento State (1999), Robert Morris (2000), DePaul (2001), New Hampshire (2002), Wisconsin-Green Bay (2003), Long Island (2004), Winthrop (2005) and Siena (2006). Minnesota lost in the first round for the first time in school history to Sacramento State in 2007. The Golden Gophers bounced back to defeat North Dakota State in 2008 and Louisville last year.
The Bison enter the NCAA Tournament with a 20-10 overall record and finished tied for first in the Summit League in the regular-season at 14-4. North Dakota State won the conference tournament with victories over Southern Utah (3-1) and IPFW (3-2) to claim the Summit League automatic bid. This will be the second time in three years that the Bison will play the Gophers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. North Dakota State is led by Chrissy Knuth who has 2.83 kps, 1.25 dps and 0.76 blps. Brynn Joki also has 2.74 kps and 2.90 dps. Megan Lamberston leads the team with 0.93 blps and has 2.45 kps. Setter Jordan Kissman, who was named the Summit League Freshman of the Year, is averaging 9.05 aps and 2.27 dps. Andrea Henning leads the team with 3.29 dps.
North Dakota State is coached by interim head coach Kari Thompson. Thompson took over as the head coach after, former head coach Eric Hinterstocker resigned on Oct. 19. North Dakota State is 9-1 since Thompson took over, after starting 11-9 under Hinterstocker. Minnesota leads the all-time series against North Dakota State 8-1. The Gophers defeated the Bison in three sets at the Sports Pavilion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Dec. 5, 2008.
The Bluejays enter the NCAA Tournament with a 20-11 overall record, finished third in the Missouri Valley and received one of the conference’s three at-large bids. Creighton won five of its final six matches this season. The Bluejays are led by Alicia Runge who has 3.83 kps. Allie Oelke also has 2.42 kps and 3.77 dps, while Laurel Sanford has 2.45 kps and leads the team with 1.08 blps. Setter Megan Bober has 10.30 aps, 1.94 dps, 1.47 kps and 0.89 blps, while Julianne Mandolfo has a team-best 4.47 dps. Creighton is coached by Kirsten Bernthal Booth who is 140-100 in her eighth year with the program. Minnesota leads the all-time series against Creighton 3-0. The Gophers won the last meeting in three sets in the 2008 season opener on Aug. 29, 2008.
The Cyclones enter the NCAA Tournament with a 20-8 overall record and finished tied for third in the Big 12 at 13-7. Iowa State claimed one of the four at-large bids out of the Big 12. Iowa State is led by Victoria Henson who has 4.47 kps and 2.81 dps, while Carly Jenson has 3.02 kps and 3.08 blps. Jamie Straube leads the team in blocks with 1.07 blps and has 2.56 kps. Setter Alison Landwehr has 11.86 aps, 2.14 dps and 1.09 kps, while Ashley Mass leads the team with 4.94 dps.
Iowa State is coached by Christy Johnson who is 125-66 in her sixth season with the program. Minnesota leads the all-time series 23-6. The Gophers won the last meeting in four sets at the Sports Pavilion on Sept. 5, 2009 to claim the Diet Coke Classic. In 2008, Iowa State handed Minnesota its only NCAA Tournament loss a the Sports Pavlion in four sets on Dec. 6, 2008. The Cyclones advanced to the regional final in 2008 after that victory and played in the regional semifinals last year.