LosThe Minnesota volleyball team made one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament, defeating Southern California, 3-15, 4-15, 16-14, 15-10, 15-10, Saturday night in Los Angeles.
The Gophers (27-8) advance to the Central Regional semifinals against Penn State. Time, date and location are to be determined, although the match will likely be Thursday at Penn State.
Nicole Branagh set a Minnesota record in the NCAA Tournament with 31 kills, eight in the decisive fifth game. Stephanie Hagen added 16 kills for the Gophers.
"This is the greatest comeback I have ever been associated with," said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. "The entire staff and team never gave up, and we are thrilled to be advancing in the NCAA Tournament."
Minnesota did not put up much of a fight in the first two games, and fell behind 14-11 in the third game. Minnesota staved off four USC match points and scored the final five points of the third game to win, 16-14.
The Gophers fell behind 8-0 in the fourth game before beginning to side out regularly and scoring 15 of the final 17 points of the game to win, 15-10. That momentum carried into the fifth game, as Minnesota never trailed in the final stanza. The final point saw a set by Lindsey Berg fall on the USC side of the net.
It is the second time in NCAA history that Minnesota has come back from a 2-0 deficit in tournament play, having defeated Central Florida in five games in the first round of the 1996 NCAA Tournament. Minnesota is among the final 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in school history and the first time since 1993.
Central Regional Semifinals
UCLA/Ohio State winner vs. Pepperdine (26-3)
Minnesota (27-8) vs. Penn State (32-1)
East Regional Semifinals
Brigham Young (28-4) vs. Florida (32-2)
Northern Iowa (30-0) vs. Pacific (Cal.) (30-2)
Pacific Regional Semifinals
Nebraska (27-5) vs. UC Santa Barbara (28-5)
Arizona (21-10) vs. Stanford (28-2)
Mountain Regional Semifinals
Colorado State (30-2) vs. Long Beach State (29-3)
Texas A&M (27-5) vs. Hawaii (29-1)