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The fourth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (30-4) defeated Yale (18- 8) in three games by scores of 30-17, 30-18, 30-19 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the John J. Lee Amphitheatre in New Haven, Conn. on Friday, Dec. 3. With the win, Minnesota advances to the NCAA Regional round for the fifth time in six seasons.
Minnesota also advanced to the NCAA Regional for the third season in a row. The Golden Gophers will host the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Friday, Dec. 10 at 5 and 7 p.m. Minnesota will then host the Regional Finals on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
"We are extremely happy to advance to the NCAA Regionals and to be playing them at home," said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. "I think playing the first and second rounds on the road was a good experience for us. We will play the Regionals at home, but if we get past that point we will be playing in front of hostile crowds again at some point. I am glad we got the experience early in the tournament, and thank Yale for running a first class NCAA Tournament."
The Golden Gophers attack was led by Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) who had 15 kills, hit .333 (15-4-33) and had five blocks on the night. Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) had seven kills, hit .667 (7-1-9), had a career-high three service aces and 17 digs.
"We are looking forward to playing in front of all of our fans in the regionals," said Martin. "This was a loud gym and a tough place to play, but we came in played smart and executed better then we did last night."
Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) hit .538 (8-1-13), had eight kills, 22 assists and nine digs. Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) hit .583 (8-1-12), had eight kills and tied career-high with two service aces.
Paula Gentil (Forteleza Ceara', Brazil) had a match-high 21 digs, and also had two service aces.
Minnesota jumped out to an early 11-8 lead in game one, and expanded it to 20-11 with nine of the next 12 points. Yale scored five of the next seven points to cut it to 22-16. However, the Golden Gophers ran off seven of the next eight points to move it to game point at 29-17. Taatjes delivered a kill to close out the first game 30-17.
The Golden Gophers outhit Yale .353 to .139, and had 18 kills to 10 for the Bulldogs. Amanda Hokenson (Andover, Minn.) led the way with five kills in the first game, while Gentil had nine digs.
In game two, Minnesota jumped out to a 6-3 lead, but Yale tied it at six with the next three points. The Golden Gophers responded with 12 of the next 15 points to move ahead 18-9. The Bulldogs cut the lead to 22-16, but Minnesota pulled away with seven of the next nine points to push it to game point at 29-18. Martin and Nelson team on a block to give the Golden Gophers game two 30-18.
Minnesota limited Yale to a -.057 hitting percentage in game two. Martin had a game-high six kills in eight swings.
The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 14-12 lead in game three, and extended it to 26-17 with 12 of the next 17 points. Minnesota moved it to game point at 29-19, where freshman middle blocker Jessy Jones (Naperville, Ill.) ended the match with a kill.
Minnesota limited Yale to a .053 hitting percentage in the third game. Bowman had four kills in four swings and a team-high eight digs in the game.
The Golden Gophers outhit Yale .306 to .046 for the match, and had 54 kills to 24 for the Bulldogs. Minnesota also tied a season-high with nine service aces. The Golden Gophers outblocked Yale 12.0-to-0.0, and outdug the Bulldogs 62 to 30.
"I thought we played very good defensively tonight," said Hebert. "We blocked well and funneled a lot of their shots to Paula (Gentil) who is as good as it gets on defense. Amanda (Hokenson) did a great job in the first game of getting things started. She is a senior who had not started a match all year, and she came in and played real well which sparked us as a team."
Yale was led by Shannon Farrell who had eight kills. Renee Lopes had seven kills and seven digs.
Minnesota will host the NCAA Regionals at the Sports Pavilion on Friday Dec. 10 and Saturday, Dec. 11. The Regional Semifinals will take place on Dec. 10 at 5 and 7 pm, while the Regional Finals will be played on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. The Regional Finals will be broadcast live on CSTV.