The fourth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (31-4) team outlasted No. 20 Georgia Tech (27-7) in five games by scores of 25-30, 30-22, 30-24, 46-48, 15-9 to advance to its second NCAA Regional Final in school history on Friday, Dec. 10 at the Sports Pavilion.
Minnesota will meet Ohio State for the third time this season in the NCAA Regional Final. That match will take place on Saturday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., and will be telecast live on CSTV (channel 311 on Time Warner, 273 on Comcast and 611 on Direct TV.
It marks the second straight season, Minnesota has reached the Regional Finals. The Golden Gophers join UCLA, Washington and USC as the four teams to make repeat visits to the NCAA Regional Finals this season.
"We knew it would be our ability to get them out of their system that would decide this game," said Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert. "They passed the ball as well as anyone we've seen all year long. Their speed put our block off balance at times. It was not us playing poorly tonight, they played outstanding. Sauer (Georgia Tech outside hitter Laura Sauer) was at times, unstoppable. That is the best I have ever seen her play. That fourth game was one for the ages, I heard somebody say that it was a record for points scored in a game. We're tired now, and we need to get ready to take on Ohio State for the third time this year, which will be a tall order. But, I'm pleased with tonight's win."
The Golden Gophers attack was led by senior outside hitter Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) who had a career-high 31 kills, nine digs and eight blocks. Martin had a school record seven solo blocks on the night. Paula Gentil (Forteleza Ceara', Brazil) also recorded her second 40+ dig total of the season with 41.
Both of Minnesota's 6-2 setters had triple-doubles, as Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) had a career-high 14 kills, 41 assists and 23 digs. Kelly Bowman (Maple Grove, Minn.) had her eighth triple-double of the year with 10 kills, 43 assists and 16 digs. It marked the first time in school history at two Minnesota players recorded triple-doubles in the same game.
Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) hit .462 (21-3-39) and had a career- high 21 kills. Trisha Bratford also finished with 13 kills on the night.
"That performance shows character from both teams," said Minnesota sophomore middle blocker Meredith Nelson. "It was awesome to be a part of, and it was awesome to watch. They came hard, they played amazing. I'll never forget it."
Minnesota moved into the fourth game of the match with a 2-1 lead, and had a 28-23 lead that forced Georgia Tech to call timeout. The Yellow Jackets stormed out to the timeout with six consecutive points to give them game point at 29-28. Minnesota fought off that game point, and another to tie the score at 30.
The Golden Gophers missed chances to close out the match at 31-30 and 32- 31, before Georgia Tech tied the game at 32. The Yellow Jackets moved it to game point at 33-32, but Nelson put down a kill to tie it at 33. Minnesota had game point at 34-33, but Lynnette Moster tied the score back up 34 with a kill for the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech missed two more chances to close the game out at 35-34 and 36-35, but Minnesota tied it at 36. The Golden Gophers followed with a string of six match points at 37-36, 38-37, 39-38, 40-39, 41-40 and 42-41 that they were unable to close out.
With the score tied at 42, Georgia Tech moved to game point at 43-42. Martin put down a kill to tie it at 43, and moved Minnesota to another match point at 44-43. Again, the Yellow Jackets fought it off and moved to game point at 45- 44. Martin put a kill down to tie at 45, but Georgia Tech moved to game point again at 46-45. Minnesota fought it off with a Nelson kill to tie it at 46, but Georgia Tech finally closed out the fourth game to send it to a fifth with two straight points to win 48-46.
The 48-46 game four score set an NCAA Division I record, previously held at 46-44 in a game between Fresno State and San Jose State on Nov. 3, 2001. There were 19 game points in the fourth game. Minnesota had 10 match points, and Georgia Tech had nine game points.
"This was one of the greatest matches I've ever coached," said Georgia Tech Head Coach Bond Shymansky. "It's really tough to watch the seniors go. I'm not sad, I'm really proud. Minnesota is a really tough team, and you just watched two great teams play each other."
Minnesota shook off the game four loss, and jumped out to a 6-0 lead in game two. However, Georgia Tech answered with four of the next five points to cut the lead to 7-4. Consecutive kills by Martin and Bratford moved Minnesota ahead 9-4.
Georgia Tech cut the lead to 10-6, but Bratford delivered a kill to move Minnesota ahead 11-6. The Yellow Jackets pulled to within four again at 12-8, but the Golden Gophers moved ahead 13-8 on a Yellow Jacket attack error. Jayme Gergen delivered a kill for Georgia Tech to cut it to 13-9, but Martin closed out the match with back-to-back kills to give Minnesota the victory.
Minnesota outhit Georgia Tech on the night .257 to .213, and had 97 kills to 82 for the Yellow Jackets. For only the third time all season, Minnesota was outdug as Georgia Tech had 114 to 113 for the Golden Gophers. Minnesota did narrowly outblock Georgia Tech 14.0-to-11.0.
During the match, Gentil also moved into first place on the NCAA single- season career list with 838 this season.
Minnesota is also now 6-2 in five-game matches.
The Golden Gophers will join two other Big Ten teams in the NCAA Regional Finals. Minnesota joins Wisconsin, and will play Ohio State on Dec. 11.
Georgia Tech was led by Lauren Sauer who had 25 kills for the match. Lynnette Moster had 20 kills and 22 digs, while setter Lindsey Laband had 71 assists and 19 digs. Marisa Aston also had a career-high 36 digs.
NCAA Volleyball Regional Semifinals
Dec. 10, 2004
Georgia Tech Quotes
Georgia Tech Head Coach Bond Shymansky
"This was one of the greatest matches I've ever coached. It's really tough to watch the seniors go. I'm not sad, I'm really proud. Minnesota is a really tough team, and you just watched two great teams play each other."
"We proved that we belong and that we have a great program. Our seniors motto was giving it all and finishing with pride."
Georgia Tech senior outside hitter Lynette Moster
"We love playing in this environment, this is why we play volleyball. Our tears are tears of joy, we just need to keep our heads, and the program is just going to keep shooting up."
Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert
"First thing I want to say is, this is way past my bed time. What was it, three hours long? We knew it would be our ability to get them out of their system that would decide this game. They passed the ball as well as anyone we've seen all year long. Their speed put our block off balance at times. It was not us playing poorly tonight, they played outstanding. Sauer (Georgia Tech outside hitter Laura Sauer) was at times, unstoppable. That is the best I have ever seen her play. That fourth game was one for the ages, I heard somebody say that it was a record for points scored in a game. We're tired now, and we need to get ready to take on Ohio State for the third time this year, which will be a tall order. But, I'm pleased with tonight's win."
"It's always frustrating if service errors lead to a loss of points, which they did. But, there was no alternative. We couldn't defend Georgia Tech by lobbing the ball over the net. If you serve tougher you are going to make more service errors. They only had nine service errors all night; they played with a minimum of errors throughout the match."
"What happens in these matches is you get caught up in the ebb and flow of emotion. In game five I felt the cards were on our side of the table, with the crowd and all that. In game four we were up 28-23 and I thought we had that game wrapped up, but they showed tremendous resolve. At that point I started to notice the emotion that was encompassing the Georgia Tech team. In game five I think we had the advantage emotion wise and with the home crowd; that did it for us."
"We saw them (Georgia Tech) earlier in this season, and they were no where near the level they played at tonight. Bond has done a great job preparing and improving that team. The performance they put on tonight, if done consistently would put them at about three or four in the Big Ten. They deserved more attention in the polls. The match is over, and it was a long one, so I'm not too articulate right now. I feel like we were in a battle."
Minnesota junior libero Paula Gentil
"The floor was a little harder today. We don't usually play games like that. It hurts less because we won. Like she (Erin Martin) said it was all about heart. That took us a long way tonight and that is why we won."
Minnesota senior outside hitter Erin Martin
"It was heart. We willed ourselves to that win. We believed in ourselves going into that fifth game. I think the difference tonight was that we played with more heart than they did."
"The first game I was off, and was trying to focus and get it together. In game four I realized I will never play in a game like this again, that's why I was all smiles. All I could do is smile, that was a once in a lifetime experience. That's why I play volleyball. In game five I had to do my job as a senior and help lead this team to victory."
Minnesota sophomore middle blocker Meredith Nelson
"That game is definitely up there. That performance show's character from both teams. It was awesome to be a part of, it was awesome to watch. They came hard, they played amazing. I'll never forget it."
Minnesota vs. Georgia Tech Match Notes
Minnesota improves to 31-4 overall this season, while Georgia Tech finished the 2004 campaign with a 27-7 record. The series record between the schools now stands at 4-1 in favor of Minnesota.
The 94 points scored in game four sets an NCAA record for most points in an NCAA Division I rally-scored game.
Minnesota moves to 19-9 in NCAA Tournament play, while Georgia Tech falls to 9-8. Minnesota is 10-1 in NCAA matches at home, 6-2 in five-game matches, and 4-8 in NCAA matches when starting with a 0-1 deficit after game one.
Several of Minnesota's NCAA Tournament records were broken in tonight's match: most kills (97), most assists (90), and most digs (113).
Minnesota advances to the NCAA Regional Final for the second straight season. The Golden Gophers won their Regional Final last season, upsetting Washington 3-2 to earn a spot in the 2003 NCAA Final Four.
Minnesota senior Erin Martin set a career-high marks with 31 kills and seven solo blocks. Martin's 31 kills ties the program's NCAA kills record, a tally also reached by Nicole Branagh against Southern California (12/4/99) and Arizona State (12/2/00). Her seven solo blocks sets the school's NCAA Tournament record.
Gopher Paula Gentil, who already owns the school record for career digs and single season digs, set the school's record in the NCAA Tournament with 41 tonight.
Georgia Tech lost a match after winning game one for the first time this season. Coming into today's match, the Jackets were 24-0 in matches where they one the opening game.
With 20 kills in tonight's match, Georgia Tech's Lynnette Moster moved into fourth place on the ACC career kills list. She collected 1,559 kills in her collegiate career.
Georgia Tech only played in two five-game matches during the 2004 season, losing both (Wisconsin, 9/4/04)
No. 1 seeds went 2-2 in NCAA play today, with Minnesota and Nebraska winning their matches, while Hawaii and Penn State were upset in their matches.