Gophers Set to Host NCAAs This Weekend

Go Gophers!
Minnesota is making its 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament

Go Gophers!
Minnesota is making its 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament
Go Gophers!
 Minnesota hosts NCAA 1st/2nd Round
 Friday, Dec. 6 Match #1: Iowa State vs. Colorado (4:30 p.m.)
  Match #2: Minnesota vs. Radford (7 p.m.)
 Saturday, Dec. 7 First-Round Winners (7 p.m.)
 Location Sports Pavilion
 Travel Local Weather | Parking | Preferred Hotels
 Live Video Click on Match in Bracket
 Live Stats ISU vs. CU | RAD vs. UM
 Live Blog Minnesota-Radford
 Social Media  @GopherVball | Facebook

Dec. 4, 2013

NCAA 1st Rd Notes Get Acrobat Reader

The No. 10 University of Minnesota volleyball team begins its second season this weekend as it was selected to host the NCAA First and Second Round of the 64-field tournament. Minnesota plays Radford in the first round, while Iowa State and Colorado will also participate in the additional match. Minnesota, seeded No. 10 overall in the nation, will face Radford at 7 p.m. Friday as Iowa State and Colorado battle at 4:30 p.m. The winners of Friday night's matches will meet on Saturday, 7p.m., and a chance to advance to the NCAA Regional competition in Lexington, Kentucky, Dec. 13-14.

Gopher All-Access will broadcast all matches of the First and Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. The video feed will be made free. A live blog and stats will also be made available on

The Golden Gophers are making their 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Minnesota is 17-1 in 18 first round NCAA Tournament matches its participated in. Last year, Minnesota defeated Liberty and Creighton in the first and second rounds to advance to the West Lafayette Regional. The Gophers were 13-1 in first round matches under former head coach Mike Hebert. Before Hebert, Minnesota won First Round home matches against Colorado (1989) and Ball State (1993). Minnesota lost in the first round for the first time in school history to Sacramento State in 2007.

The Big Ten tied its conference record with eight teams in the NCAA Tournament. Of the eight, five were given Top 16 seeds: No. 2 Penn State, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 10 Gophers, No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 13 Illinois, while Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State also made the field. Since 2007, a Big Ten team has either won or been in the NCAA Final Four each year. The 2013 season marks the fifth time the Big Ten has had eight teams in the NCAA tournament.

Radford earned an automatic bid when it defeated Coastal Carolina in the Big South Conference championship. Entering the NCAA tournament with a 25-9 overall record, the Highlanders are making their first NCAA appearance since 2000.

Iowa State is no stranger to the Sports Pavilion as it was last here in 2011 for a regional appearance. In fact, ISU has visited Minneapolis three times in NCAA Tournament since 2008. Entering the NCAA Tournament with an 18-9 overall record, the Cyclones fell to Kansas State in their final Big 12 regular season match and earned an at-large bid.

Colorado enters the NCAA Tournament with a 17-13 overall record and tied for seventh in the Pac-12 at 9-11. CU fell to USC in three sets, Nov. 29 in its last competition. The 17 wins for the Buffaloes were the most wins since 2006.

Seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman were named unanimous All-Big Ten selections, while rookie Hannah Tapp landed a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman team, announced Tuesday by the league office. Daly Santana was also awarded Minnesota's Sportsmanship Award.

Freshman Hannah Tapp was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week after her performance against Wisconsin and Illinois last weekend. The rookie from Stewartville, Minn., led the league in total blocks last week. With a solo block and 15 block assists, Tapp averaged 2.29 blocks per set. Having 10 kills in 16 attempts, Tapp hit .625 (16-0-16). Last Wednesday against Wisconsin, Tapp had six kills in 12 attempts and produced a solo block and four block assists. In the sweep over Illinois, Tapp contributed in 11 of 14.5 team blocks. The 14.5 was Minnesota's conference best mark in three sets.

Freshman Hannah Tapp has already made her mark so far as a Gopher middle blocker. Tapp has played in 108 sets and 31 matches this season. In that span, she's led or tied the Gopher blocking in 13 matches. In Big Ten action alone, Tapp had 104 total blocks in 19 contests. She's ranked fourth in blocks against conference opponents as she averages 1.44 per set. On the total season, Tapp averages 1.31 blocks per set (7-134-141), which ranks fifth in the league.

Radford enters the NCAA Tournament with a 25-9 overall record and posted an 11-3 Big South Conference mark this year. The Highlanders defeated Gardner-Webb in the Big South quarterfinals, Liberty in the semifinals and Coastal Carolina in the championship to receive the automatic bid. Rachel Wiechecki leads the offensive charge for Radford as she has 497 kills, averages 3.77 kills per set in 1425 swings. A six-rotation player, Wiechecki has 51 aces and 469 digs, both team bests. Cheyanne James ranks second on the team in kills (377) and attempts (1036). Emma Deininger leads the Highlanders with 143 total blocks, while setters Jena Braden and Rachel Flores has 1,123 and 375 assists, respectively.

Minnesota has only faced Radford one previous time in school history. The Golden Gophers defeated the Highlanders, 3-1 in conjunction with the Jefferson Cup Tournament, Aug. 31, 2001 in Charlottesville, Va.

The last time Minnesota and Colorado faced off dates back to 1995. Minnesota lost that contest in three sets and are 2-2 all time against CU, dating back to 1987.

Unlike Radford and Colorado, Minnesota has faced Iowa State 30 times in school history, the most recent in 2011. Despite Minnesota holding 23-7 all-time record against the Cyclones, ISU ended Minnesota's 2011 season as it defeated the Gophers in the Sweet 16 at the Sports Pavilion (four sets).

Seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman have both planted themselves in the Minnesota recordbooks. Dixon ranks fourth all time in total blocks (497), the eighth-best career hitting percentage (.366) and 10th all-time in career kills (1,436). Wittman ranks sixth in Minnesota history in career kills (1,735) and fourth in career digs (1,470).

Minnesota has drawn well this year at the Sports Pavilion. In 13 home matches this season, the Gophers have averaged 4,241 fans this year. In fact, against Penn State (11/16) the attendance ranked as the second-highest volleyball match at the Sports Pavilion. In a sellout, the Gophers drew 5,748 fans against the Nittany Lions. Prior to that, the season's best attendance came on Oct. 19 when the Gophers packed in 5,638 fans against Michigan. On the season, the University of Minnesota ranks third nationally in average attendance.

Minnesota continues to play well on its home court. The Gophers are 66-11 in the last five seasons at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota fell just once at home last year and boasted a 15-1 home record. In 2011, the Gophers were 10-5 and went 16-2 in 2010. The loss to Nebraska (11/10) ended a 19-match home win streak, dating back to the 2012 season. The Gophers are 11-2 this year at home.

In conference action alone, Ashley Wittman had 275 digs and ranked eighth in digs against conference opponents. She was the lone position player in that list as all others are the team's libero or defensive specialist. Wittman had 29 digs against Northwestern (10/27), the most by any Gopher player since 2011. She also provided a team-best 19 against Michigan State and 20 against Wisconsin last Wednesday.

Ashley Wittman reached her career kill No. 1,500 against Indiana (9/25) and heading into the week sits at 1,735 in her career. Her kills currently rank fifth nationally among active leaders. Dixon ranks 20th in the same category at 1,436 and also ranks 14th in career hitting percentage with a .366 mark.