The 12th-ranked Minnesota volleyball program (27-6) won its ninth straight match as it opened up the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a three-set victory over North Dakota State (24-4) by scores of 25-18, 25-14, 25-14.
With the victory, Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert claimed the 900th victory of his career. He joins Andy Banachowski, Dave Shoji and Russ Rose as the only four coaches in Division I play to have 900 career victories.
“Maybe when the season is over, I will think about it more,” said Hebert. “However, now our main goal is try to compete at a high level and make it far in the NCAA Tournament. I thought we played very well. We came out a little tentative, but got more comfortable as the much progressed. I thought Katie Vatterrodt played very well. She gave us a great block, and had a played a fantastic all-around match, and these two (Lauren Gibbemeyer) and Kyla Roehrig (Papillion, Neb.) really pounded the ball tonight.
Minnesota is now 12-1 in all-time first-round matchups, 12-1 at home and 10-0 in the Sports Pavilion in NCAA Tournament play.
The Golden Gophers will play Iowa State in the second round on Saturday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. That match can be seen and heard on gophersports.com.
Earlier in the night, Iowa State defeated Northern Iowa in four sets by scores of 26-24, 16-25, 25-21, 25-16.
Victoria Henson had 25 kills and hit .375 (25-7-48) to lead the way for the Cyclones. Rachel Hockaday also had 11 kills and 13 digs, while Jen Malcom hit .333 (11-3-24) with 11 kills. Iowa State moved to 20-12 with the win, while Northern Iowa finished the season with a 25-9 record.
Minnesota hit .317 as a team, and only had 11 hitting errors in 104 swings. The Golden Gophers also had 44 kills, and limited the Bison to an .052 hitting percentage with 27 kills. Minnesota also did not allow a service aces for the fifth time this year, and outblocked North Dakota State 7.0-to-2.0 on the night.
“I hope people don’t look at what happened tonight and judge our season, because this was an incredible year,” said North Dakota State Erick Hunterstocker. “I think that is a very good Minnesota team. They have a lot of weapons, and they have big expectations when they enter the postseason that they play hard for. I hope people realized how good this Minnesota team is, and realized that what we did today is a big building block for our program.”
Senior Kyla Roehrig (Papillion, Neb.) hit a season-high .647 (11-0-17) with 11 kills and , four digs and three blocks. Sophomore Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) hit .364 (11-3-22) with 11 kills and two blocks. Senior Katie Vatterrodt (Bloomington, Minn.) also hit .412 (8-1-17) with a season-high eight kills, five digs and two blocks.
“I have switched from the left side to the right side several times in my career,” said Roehrig. “I don’t mind playing either side, and am willing to play anywhere the coaches put me. I really like playing the right side though because I get a chance to block quite a bit which is a lot of fun.”
Senior Rachel Hartmann (St. Charles, Ill.) had 34 assists, five digs and five kills. Hailey Cowles (Eden Prairie, Minn.) finished with four kills and 14 digs, while Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Minn.) had 13 digs, two assists and two service aces.
“I thought our team did a good job of coming in prepared to play tonight,” said Gibbemeyer. “We knew they would come in with a lot of enthusiasm, and we did not overlook because they are good team. I thought we did a good job of blocking tonight, and I think we were just to tall for them.”
Minnesota jumped out to a 6-3 lead, and pushed it to four points at 13-9. The Bison answered with consecutive points to make it 13-11, but Hartmann delivered a kill and North Dakota State committed an attack error to make it 15-11. The Bison cut the lead to 16-13, but Roehrig delivered a kill, followed by Schmidt combining with Roehrig and that Vatterrodt on consecutive blocks. Schmidt delivered a kill to put the Golden Gophers ahead 20-13.
North Dakota State answered with consecutive points, but Minnesota kept the momentum and eventually pushed it to set point at 24-17. After the Bison fought off the first set point, Gibbemeyer delivered a kill to take the first set 25-18.
The Golden Gophers outhit North Dakota State .250 to .108 in the set, and had 16 kills to 10 for the Bison. Roehrig led Minnesota with four kills in six swings in the set.
Minnesota jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the second set, before North Dakota State scored eight of the next 13 points to cut the Golden Gopher lead to 11-9. Minnesota pushed the lead to 14-10 after a kill by Gibbemeyer, but the Bison cut it to 15-12. From that point, the Golden Gophers scored 10 of the next 12 points and won the set 25-14 on a kill by Roehrig.
The Golden Gophers hit a scorching .536 (16-1-28) in the second set with 16 kills, while North Dakota State hit .152 with nine. Gibbemeyer and Roehrig each had five kills in seven swings in the set.
Minnesota wore down the Bison in the third set, and held them to a -.065 hitting percentage, force 11 hitting errors for North Dakota State. The Golden Gophers had just three hitting errors in 40 swings in the set. In the final two sets, Minnesota had four hitting errors in 68 swings.
North Dakota State was led by Brooke VandenBergh who had nine kills and four digs, while Chrissy Knuth had eight kills and two blocks. Kelly Lopez finished a match-high 15 digs.
North Dakota State finished the season with 24-4 overall record.