Minnesota Advances to NCAA Regional Final With Four-Game Victory Over No. 7 Florida The ninth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (26-7) advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals for the third time in four years, as they defeated Florida (30-3) at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Friday, Dec. 8.
The ninth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers (26-7) advanced to the NCAA Regional Finals for the third time in four years, as they defeated Florida (30-3) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Friday, Dec. 8.
Minnesota advances to the NCAA Regional Finals to face No. 1 Nebraska on Saturday, Dec. 9 at (CT). That match will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
With the win, the Golden Gophers also snapped a 34-match home winning streak by Florida, and a 28-match NCAA Tournament home-winning streak that dated back to 1995.
Dating back to 2003, Minnesota has now won five straight NCAA Regional matches. The Golden Gophers defeated Pepperdine and Washington to advance to the Final Four in 2003, won against Georgia Tech and OhioState to advance to the Final Four in 2004 and won against Florida to make it to this year’s regional finals.
“I thought we did a good job of winning that game within the game tonight in the serve and pass battle,” said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. “We served extremely tough tonight, as evidenced by our 13 service aces. I thought we also passed extremely well, which helped Rachel (Hartmann) deliver some great sets throughout the match. We serve with an aggressive style to keep our opponents out of system, and I thought we did a great job tonight of not only doing that, but getting points off our serve on aces. I am very proud of this group for an extraordinary effort tonight.”
Minnesota was led by senior Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) who hit .417 (16-1-36) with 16 kills, four blocks, four digs and two service aces. Senior libero Malama Peniata (Plymouth, Minn.) had 23 digs, four assists and two kills for the Golden Gophers on the night, while Meghan Cumpston (Red Bluff, Calif.) tied a career-high with five service aces, had a Golden Gopher career-high 18 digs and had nine kills. Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) had 11 kills and five digs on the night.
“We have four players who have been to the Final Four, and I think that is very important experience to have on our roster,” said Hebert. “I think especially the seniors have really showed some of the younger players what preparation needs to go into matches at this level, down to every last detail. I think there guidance in this area has been extremely important and can not be understated.”
Sophomore Kyla Roehrig (Papillion, Neb.) also had 13 kills and hit .300 (13-4-30) on the night, while junior Jessy Jones (Naperville, Ill.) had 12 kills, four blocks and a career-high four digs.
Rachel Hartmann (St. Charles, Ill.) had 52 assists, a career-high four service aces, six digs, three kills and three blocks.
“I thought the biggest key to match was our ball control,” said Nelson. “Our passers did a great job all night of controlling Florida’s serves and getting Rachel (Hartmann) passes to get to us. I know as a middle blocker a lot of my success relies on the rhythm we have as a team. I was in a good rhythm tonight, largely because of how well we passed as a team.”
Minnesota had a season-high 13 service aces to just two on the night for Florida. It was the Golden Gophers highest service ace total since they had 14 against Illinois on Nov. 25, 2005. As a team, Minnesota held Florida to a .223 hitting percentage, .074 points below the Gators season average. Minnesota hit .253, and had 66 kills to 58 digs. Florida narrowly outblocked the Golden Gophers 10.0-to-9.0, while Minnesota had 67 digs to the Gators 61.
“It was exciting to win tonight in such a great atmosphere,” said Peniata. “It is always fun to travel to opposing venues and play in front of tough crowd. We are used to it from the Big Ten and playing in front of 4,000 or so fans at the Sports Pavilion. It is a lot of fun to do. Coming into the match we knew how physical they were at the net. We just wanted to focus and mentally, play our game and build confidence as the match went along. I thought we did a great job of that tonight.”
After the Golden Gophers won the first game, Florida claimed game two 30-25 to tie the match at one game apiece. The Gators score the first three points of the third game, but Minnesota reeled off seven of the next eight to move ahead 7-4. The teams exchanged the next six points to make it 10-7. Florida scored the next two points to cut it to 10-9, but committed a service error followed by a Cumpston service to make it a 12-9 Minnesota lead.
Minnesota pushed the lead out to 14-10, but Florida responded with a 5-0 run to take the lead back at 15-14. The Gators kept the one-point edge up until they were up 18-17. After a Florida service error, Cumpston delivered a kill to make it 19-18. The Gators tied it at 19, but Cumpston and Roehrig answered with consecutive kills to make it 21-19. After a long rally, Nelson delivered a kill to make a three-point lead at 22-19.
Florida scored back-to-back points to make it 22-21. However after another long rally, Roehrig finally gave Minnesota a point when she hit a push-shot into an open space to give the Golden Gophers a two-point lead at 23-21. That shot set off an 8-0 run to close out the game that gave Minnesota game three 30-21. Following Roehrig’s push shot, she delivered another kill followed by a Jones’ kill to make it 25-21.
After the Gators called timeout, Roehrig followed with another kill to make it 26-21. Jones sandwiched a couple kills around another Roehrig kill to make it game point at 29-21. Nelson delivered a service to end the game. During the 8-0 run to close the game, Roehrig had four kills and Jones had three.
Minnesota outhit Florida .409 to .300, and had 20 kills to 16 for the Gators. Jones and Roehrig each had six kills in the game.
The Golden Gophers used the game three momentum early in the fourth game, as they ran out to a 9-4 lead. Minnesota led 15-10 following a Nelson kill, but Florida chipped away with six of the next nine points to make it 18-16. The two teams exchanged the next two points to make it 19-17.
Nelson answered with a kill and combined on a block to push the Golden Gopher lead to 21-17. After an Amber McCray kill cut it to 21-18, Roehrig delivered a kill, and Florida committed an attack error to make it 23-18.
Florida immediately responded with two straight points to make it 23-20. Jones answered with a kill of her own to push the lead back to four. The teams exchanged the next two points to make it 25-21. The Gators continued to charge hard with three straight points to make it 25-24. Cumpston halted Florida’s momentum temporarily with a kill to make it 26-24. However, Kisya Killingsworth delivered a kill to make it 26-25.
Nelson answered again for Minnesota to make it 27-25. The Golden Gophers got some breathing room when Florida committed an attack error to make it 28-25. Nelson delivered a kill to make it game point at 29-25. The Gators fought off the first match point with a Kristina Johnson kill to make it 29-26. Following a replay call, Cumpston delivered a kill to give Minnesota the match four-game victory and a trip to the Regional Finals.
Florida jumped out to a 7-5 lead, but Minnesota got a kill and a service ace from Cumpston to tie the game at seven. The Golden Gophers moved ahead 8-7, but the Gators responded with consecutive points to move ahead 9-8. Minnesota tied it at nine when Hartmann dumped the ball over for a kill. The Golden Gophers took the lead at 10-9 on a service ace by Nelson.
The Gators responded with back-to-back points to go up 11-10. Jones tied the game with a kill, and Minnesota scored the next point to move ahead 12-11. With the teams tied at 13, Bowman delivered a kill to make it 14-13. Florida followed with an attack errors, and Cumpston delivered a kill to make it a three-point lead at 16-13.
Florida responded with three of the next four points to make it 17-16. With the score at 19-18, the Gators committed a service error and Jones had a solo block to make it 21-18. Hartmann followed with a service ace to make it 22-18. Florida scored to make it 22-19, but Roehrig followed with a kill, and the Gators had a pair of errors to make it 25-19 to force a Florida timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Gators scored consecutive points to make it 25-21. Cumpston answered with a service ace, and Peniata followed with a service ace to make it 27-21. With the score at 28-23, Cumpston delivered a kill to make it game point at 29-23. Peniata ended the game with a push kill to give Minnesota a 1-0 match lead.
Minnesota outhit Florida .200 to .146 in the first game, and had 15 kills to 14 for the Gators. The Golden Gophers also had four service aces to just one error, while Florida had one service and two service errors. Bowman led Minnesota with four kills in the game.
In game two, Florida jumped out to a 17-12 lead. Minnesota cut it to 17-14, but the Gators stretched it out to four points at 20-16. After a kill by Nelson, the Gators responded with four straight points to go up 24-17. Florida pushed the lead out to nine at 28-19. Roehrig and Bowman gave Minnesota some momentum with back-to-back kills to make it 28-21. Following a Florida ballhandling error and a pair of Gator attack errors, Hartmann had a service. However, Florida scored back-to-back points to close out the game to even the match at one game apiece.
Florida outhit Minnesota .225 to .146 in the game, while each team had 14 kills. The Golden Gophers also had five serving errors and just one service ace. Four Golden Gophers had three kills in the game.
The Gators were led by Killingsworth who had 16 kills, while Marcie Hampton had 13 kills and 12 digs. Kelsey Bowers had 10 kills, five blocks and five digs. Setter Angie McGinnis had six kills, five digs and 48 assists. Elyse Cusack also had 23 digs for the Gators.