GophThe ninth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (30-3) travels to Honolulu for a West Regional semifinal matchup with UC Santa Barbara (25-7) in the 2000 NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament. The Golden Gophers defeated Robert Morris and Arizona State at the Sports Pavilion to advance to the regional semifinal round for the fourth time in school history and the second consecutive year. Minnesota has won 30 matches in an NCAA volleyball season for the first time in school history and will set a school record for winning percentage. The Gophers have never advanced to a regional final in three previous attempts. Nicole Branagh (Orinda, Calif./Miramonte) is the Big Ten's all-time leader with 2,360 kills and ranks sixth in NCAA history.
NCAA Tournament Schedule
The 64-team NCAA Tournament has been whittled down to 16 regional semifinalists. The top seed in each of the four regionals advanced and will be the host team for this weekend's regional play. In the West Region, No. 2 seed Minnesota advanced to play No. 3 seed UC-Santa Barbara, and No. 5 Long Beach State will play No. 1 seed Hawaii.
Among Big Ten teams, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State duplicated Minnesota by winning two matches at home and advancing. Michigan was eliminated in the second round at Arizona in three games and Michigan State lost a five-game thriller at UCLA. The Big Ten is 14-0 in the first round over the past two seasons and is the only conference with four teams remaining in this year's tournament.
The remaining schedule in the West Region (all times Central):
Thursday, Dec. 7 - UCSB (25-7) vs. Minnesota (30-3) at Hawaii, 9 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 7 - Long Beach St. (24-7) at Hawaii (29-1), 11:30 p.m.
Friday, Dec. 8 - West Regional Final at Hawaii, 11 p.m.
Minnesota Volleyball is On The Air
All of Minnesota's NCAA matches will be broadcast on radio. Tom Witschen and Linda Shudlick will have the call of the UCSB-Minnesota match beginning at approximately 8:50 p.m. on WDGY AM-630. It is a possibility that Midwest Sports Channel will pick up the television broadcast of the regional matches from Honolulu. If it happens, the broadcast from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu begins at 9 p.m. Minnesota time.
Wisconsin Wins Big Ten Championship On Final Night
Wisconsin won matches at Michigan and Michigan State on the final weekend to clinch its third Big Ten volleyball championship. The Badgers and Gophers were tied heading into the final night, but Wisconsin's win in East Lansing and Minnesota's loss at Ohio State gave the Badgers the outright title.
A Record-Setting Season in Progress
Minnesota will set school records for winning percentage in both overall and Big Ten matches for a season. The Gophers' current .909 winning percentage is above the overall school record of .832 set in 1974 and the NCAA-era record of .763 set in 1989. Minnesota has reached 30 wins for the first time in the NCAA era of volleyball (19 seasons). The Golden Gophers have posted back-to-back 25-win seasons for the first time in the NCAA era.
Best Winning Percentage - Minnesota Volleyball
Overall Record Pct. Big Ten Record Pct. 1. 2000 30-3 .909 1. 2000 17-3 .850 2. 1974 31-6-1 .832 2. 1999 15-5 .750 3. 1978 58-14 .806 3. 1989 13-5 .722 4. 1989 29-9 .763 4. 1993 13-5 .722 5. 1999 27-9 .750 5. 1996/99 14-6 .700 Gophers Set Attendance Records
The fans of the Minnesota volleyball program have been coming out in record numbers to support the 2000 Golden Gophers at the Sports Pavilion. 5,116 fans watched the Penn State match Nov. 4, the second- largest volleyball crowd in the seven-year history of the Sports Pavilion and the fourth-largest in program history. The Gophers have been involved in matches drawing three of the four largest crowds in the Big Ten this season, including two at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota has drawn 40,685 fans for 15 matches this season, the first time the Gophers have drawn over 30,000 fans for a season. Minnesota ranks fourth nationally in volleyball attendance at 2,554 fans per match, an average that exceeds the school record of 2,136 fans set in 1997.
2000 National Attendance Leaders
1. 6,735 Hawaii 134,695 in 16 matches 2. 4,246 Nebraska 72,178 in 17 matches 3. 2,941 Wisconsin 44,117 in 15 matches 4. 2,554 Minnesota 40,685 in 16 matches 5. 2,460 Penn State 41,827 in 17 matches *courtesy Diane K. Nordstrom, University of Wisconsin Minnesota Single-Match Records 1. 6,046 vs. Purdue (W) 9/28/90 2. 6,002 vs. Notre Dame (W) 12/10/93 3. 5,840 vs. Penn State 11/19/99 4. 5,116 vs. Penn State 11/4/00 5. 5,011 vs. Ohio State (W) 11/11/89 (W) - Match played at Williams Arena Previous NCAA Experience
Senior outside hitters Nicole Branagh and Lisa Aschenbrenner (Algonquin, Ill./Huntley) become the third and fourth Gophers in program history to participate in three NCAA Tournaments. Both Branagh and Aschenbrenner were members of the 1997 NCAA Tournament team that traveled to Provo, Utah, and the 1999 NCAA Tournament team in Los Angeles and State College, Pa. The other two Gophers who participated in three NCAA Tournaments are Sarah Pearman (1993, 1996, 1997) and Susan Shudlick (1996, 1997, 1999).
Senior Charnette Fair (Huntington Beach, Calif./Montclair), juniors Lindsey Berg, Stephanie Hagen, Yvonne VanOort (Russelsheim, Germany/V.C. Wiesbaden), and sophomore Lisa Axel (Buffalo, Minn./ Buffalo) will all be making their second consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. No current Gopher has ever played an NCAA Tournament match at the Sports Pavilion.
Branagh Becomes All-Time Big Ten Leader in Kills
Senior outside hitter Nicole Branagh is the Big Ten's all-time leader in kills. She surpassed former Gopher All-American Katrien DeDecker (1993-96) late in the fourth game against Iowa and now has 2,360 career kills, 60 more than DeDecker. Branagh has 624 kills this season, the fourth-highest single-season total in Minnesota history. Branagh averaged 6.84 kills per game during the month of November after averaging 5.18 kills per game over the first 23 matches. She accumulated double-figure kills in her final 70 Big Ten matches. Branagh ranks sixth on the NCAA's all-time list for kills.
Branagh leads Minnesota with 5.67 kills per game overall and 6.01 kills per game in Big Ten play. During the regular season, she led the Big Ten and was eighth nationally in kills per game. Branagh has 399 digs this season, good for sixth on Minnesota's single-season list. She has 1,219 digs in her career, ranking third on Minnesota's career list. Branagh has never missed a match in her 133-match Minnesota career. The 2000 Big Ten Co-Player of the Year was the MVP of the Silver Legacy/Ray Wersching Invitational during the first weekend of the season, a member of the Diet Coke all-tournament team and a three-time selection as Big Ten Player of the Week.
Berg Among National Leaders in Service Aces, Assists
Junior Lindsey Berg was the first player ever to lead the Big Ten in service aces for two consecutive years and will likely do it for the third year in a row. The All-Big Ten performer has 75 aces in 113 games this season, an average of 0.66 aces per game, including a season-high seven aces against Michigan State on Nov. 18. Berg led the Big Ten and was second nationally in aces per game during the regular season. She served her 200th career ace on the first point of the Ohio State match Nov. 25, and now has 206 service aces, good for fifth place on Minnesota's career list. The 75 service aces this season is a career- best for a single season and the most for any Gopher since 1989.
Berg averages 14.18 assists per game, after leading the Big Ten and placing seventh nationally in assists per game during the regular season. Berg went over the 4,000-assist mark for her career Nov. 3 against Indiana. She has 1,602 assists this season, which is a career high and fourth on Minnesota's single-season list, and 4,539 assists in her three-year career, which is fourth on the Gophers' all-time list and first among Minnesota setters after their junior year. Berg was named to the all-tournament team in all three of Minnesota's preseason tournaments, including MVP awards at the Georgia Tech Classic and the Diet Coke Classic.
Hagen Leads Gophers in Two Categories
Junior middle blocker Stephanie Hagen continues to lead Minnesota in two statistical categories. Hagen leads the Golden Gophers with a 1.56 blocks per game average overall and a 1.59 blocks per game average in Big Ten play. During the regular season, the unanimous All-Big Ten selection led the Big Ten and was eighth nationally in blocks per game. Hagen has set a Minnesota school record with 149 block assists this season, breaking teammate Charnette Fair's record of 141 block assists in 1999. She is fourth on Minnesota's single season list with 168 total blocks and is sixth on Minnesota's all-time list with 392 total blocks.
Hagen leads Minnesota with a .377 hitting percentage overall and a .360 hitting percentage in conference play. During the regular season, she was fourth in the Big Ten in hitting percentage. She ranks second on Minnesota's single-season list and continues to be the Golden Gophers' all-time leader in hitting percentage with a .355 mark. She went over the 1,000-kill mark for her career Saturday night against Arizona State and now has 1,002 career kills. Earlier this season, Hagen was named the AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week and the Big Ten Player of the Week on Oct. 2. She was also the Minnesota Women's Athletics Athlete of the Month in September, and was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team.
VanOort Provides Passing, Defense
Minnesota junior Yvonne VanOort has been a primary passer and defender for Minnesota this season. She set a career high with 27 digs against Penn State on Nov. 4, and has a career-high 378 digs this season, which is eighth on Minnesota's single-season list. VanOort posted the second 20-20 match of her career Nov. 18 against Michigan State with a season- high 22 kills and 20 digs. Her first 20-20 match was in a win against Wisconsin last season at the Sports Pavilion. VanOort is second on the team in digs (3.38 per game), fourth in kills (2.42 per game), and has more blocks (89) than any other Minnesota outside hitter. Her 88 blocks is a career high for a season, as is her 0.79 blocks per game average. VanOort ranked fifth in the Big Ten in the regular season in digs per game. She needs 77 kills for 1,000 in her career and 114 digs for 1,000 in her career. Only five Gophers in history (Nicole Branagh, Katrien DeDecker, Andrea Gonzalez, Chris Schaefer and Jean Schintz) have posted 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career.
Gophers Defeat Robert Morris, Arizona State
Minnesota earned a No. 2 seed in the West Region, its highest seed ever, and two home matches at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers opened with a 15-1, 15-6, 15-2 rout of Robert Morris in the first round, taking only 53 minutes to dispose of the Colonials. Minnesota finished its home season with a 15-12, 10-15, 15-7, 15-6 win over Arizona State, concluding a 14-1 season at the Sports Pavilion and earning a school- record nine-match winning streak at home. Branagh matched her Minnesota record for an NCAA match with 31 kills and hit .377 in 61 attempts. Charnette Fair had the fourth double-double of the season with 11 kills and 10 blocks. Minnesota had a 16-7 edge in blocks.
Santa Barbara (25-7)
The Gauchos advanced to the regional semifinals with wins over Texas- San Antonio and Stanford, the latter a five-game thriller. UC Santa Barbara had a 2-1 lead, but Stanford won the fourth game 16-14 and was serving for match point at 14-13. The Gauchos earned a side out, blocked U.S. Olympian Logan Tom and served an ace to complete the match, 16-14 in the fifth game.
Danielle Bauer leads the Gauchos with 4.46 kills per game and a .289 hitting percentage. Simone Kuhn averages 3.54 kills per game and leads the team with 32 aces. Brooke Rundle (13.12 assists per game) is the team's setter. Head coach Kathy Gregory is in her 25th season at UCSB and has a record of 624-270.
Minnesota is 2-4 lifetime vs. UC Santa Barbara. The last meeting was in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 1993, where the No. 8 seed Gophers upset the No. 1 seed Gauchos in five games. This is the first opponent Minnesota will meet for a second time in the NCAA Tournament.
Hawaii won three-game matches at home against Davidson and Utah to advance to its 14th regional in 16 years. The Rainbow Wahine won their first 27 matches of the year before dropping their final regular season match against Long Beach State in four games.
The Wahine hit .298 as a team, and are led by Maja Gustin (.371 hitting percentage, 2.79 kills per game) and Lily Kahumoku (.315 hitting percentage, 4.59 kills per game). The setter is Jennfer Carey (12.84 assists per game). Head coach Dave Shoji, a college classmate of Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert, is in his 26th season at Hawaii and has a record of 739-138.
Minnesota is 0-5 lifetime vs. Hawaii, with all five losses occuring at Hawaii. The Gophers have won one game in the five meetings, back in 1991. The last meeting occurred in 1999, when Hawaii swept the Gophers, 15-13, 15-4, 15-6.
Long Beach State (24-7)
Long Beach State won two tough matches to advance to Hawaii, winning a four-game match against San Jose State and fending off five match points to defeat Santa Clara in five games. The 49ers are 1-2 against the regional field in Honolulu, defeating Hawaii in four games but losing two five-game matches to UC Santa Barbara.
Long Beach State hit .282 as a team this season, led by Cheryl Weaver (4.63 kills per game, .342 hitting percentage) and Tayyiba Haneef (4.22 kills per game, .369 hitting percentage). The setter is Keri Nishimoto, who is 9-0 since taking over the starting duties Nov. 2. Head coach Brian Gimmillaro is 449-104 in 16 seasons at Long Beach State.
The Gophers are 1-2 against Long Beach State lifetime, losing a 3- 1 match in 1979, winning a 2-0 match in the same season, and dropping a 3-0 decision in the second round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament.