Click here to see video of Minnesota's match point.
The fourth-ranked Minnesota volleyball team (32-4) advanced to the Final Four for a second straight season, as it rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Ohio State (30-4) in five games by scores of 30-32, 32-34, 27-30, 30-28, 15-8. With the victory, Minnesota became the first Big Ten team to advance to consecutive Final Fours since Penn State did so in 1998 and 1999.
In the end, I think it came down to us having a home court advantage," said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. "Just like last night, it came down to us making terrific plays, one-on-one blocks. We played our game five yesterday and today just with tremendous confidence and belief in what we were trying to do. That was pretty much the difference in the match."
Minnesota will take on USC in the Final Four on Thursday, Dec. 16 at 9:30 p.m. (CT) in the second match. The first Final Four matchup will feature Washington against Stanford at 5:30 p.m. Both matches will be show on a tape-delayed basis. Television times will be announced later in the week. Minnesota entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed overall. Washington was No. 7, USC was No. 8 and Stanford was No. 11.
With the trip to the Final Four, Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert joins USC head coach Mick Haley and Stanford head coach John Dunning as the only three coaches in NCAA history to lead two different programs to multiple Final Four appearances.
The Golden Gophers were led in the match by Lindsey Taatjes (Prinsburg, Minn.) who for a second straight night put up a triple-double with 18 kills, 37 assists and 13 digs. Taatjes also had a career-high in kills for a second straight night at 18, and hit .552 (18-2-29) in the match. For her efforts, she was named the region's Most Outstanding Player.
"It was incredible tonight," said Taatjes. Just the atmosphere and the crowd cheering us on. Going into the fifth game, well, we don't like to play fifth games if we don't have to, but if we have to play a fifth game, we go in with confidence. We know fifth games are ours."
Erin Martin (Ames, Iowa) and Paula Gentil (Forteleza Ceara', Brazil) were also named to the NCAA Region All-Tournament team for Minnesota. Martin had 20 kills in the match, one night after she had a career-high 31 in the win over Georgia Tech. Gentil had 38 digs and three service aces in the match. For NCAA Regionals, Gentil had 79 digs, for a clip of 7.90 digs per game.
"I think it has set in that we are going back to the Final Four," said Martin. When were doing out jog around the court after the match, I thought, yeah, we're going back. It's something we've worked for all year, and we weren't going to let that game go. It might have looked like it at times, but we weren't going to let it go."
Four other Minnesota players had double-figure kills for the match. Trisha Bratford (Reseda, Calif.) had 14 kills, while Meredith Nelson (St. Croix Falls, Wis.) had 12 kills and four blocks. Kelly Bowman registered her ninth triple- double of the year with 11 kills, 45 assists and 21 digs. Jessica Byrnes (Minnetonka, Minn.) also had 10 kills for Minnesota and hit .444 (10-2-18).
Ohio State's Stacey Gordon had a career-high 44 kills, hit .395 (44-10-86) and had 19 digs. Along with Maya Mapp, Gordon was also named to the region's All-Tournament team. Georgia Tech's Lynette Moster and Tennessee's Michelle Piantadosi also were named to the All-Tournament team.
"It's disappointing that we lost but we are very proud of each other," said Gordon. "The way we played tonight there is nothing to be ashamed of at all."
The Buckeyes jumped ahead 2-1 in the match after winning game three 30- 27. Minnesota made a change in the lineup, to start the fourth game, putting in freshman middle blocker Jessy Jones (Naperville, Ill.), and it paid immediate dividends, as Jones team with Taatjes on a block to give Minnesota the first point of the game. Minnesota used some of that early momentum to jump out to a 12-7 lead. The Golden Gophers scored five of the next seven points to extend it out to 17-9. Ohio State came back with four of the next five points to cut the lead down to 18-13. However, the Buckeyes had consecutive attack errors to help Minnesota push the lead back up to 20-13.
Ohio State came right back with nine of the next 12 points to trim the lead down to 23-22. Minnesota scored two of the next three points to move ahead 25-23. The Buckeyes came right back with consecutive kills by Gordon and a service ace by Brianna McCarthy to take a 26-25 lead. Only four points away from elimination, Minnesota ripped off three straight points to reclaim the lead and momentum at 28-26. Gordon followed with kill to make it 28-27, but Bowman came right back with one of her won to give the Golden Gophers game point at 29-27. Following a service error that cut it to 29-28, Taatjes put down a kill to give Minnesota a 30-28 fourth-game victory to send the match to a fifth game.
"Coming into the match cold wasn't really going through my mind," said Jones. I was just going to go out there and do everything I could, and I've been waiting for that opportunity for a long time. I'm a pretty fierce competitor, so I wasn't even thinking that I was cold. I was just going to do everything I could to help the team."
For a second straight night, Minnesota got off to a strong start in the fifth game with first three points, as Martin and Taatjes sandwiched kills around a Jones solo block. Ohio State cut it to 3-1, but Taatjes and Martin followed with kills to move the Golden Gophers ahead 5-1. The Buckeyes cut it to 7-4, but Bowman halted the momentum with a kill to put Minnesota ahead 8-4.
The Golden Gophers followed with a service error, and Danielle Meyer put down a kill to cut the lead to 8-6. However, Minnesota moved it back out to 10- 6 on a Bowman kill and a Buckeye attack error. Bratford followed with a pair of kills and Jones put down a kill to finish off a 5-0 Gopher run that made the score 13-6. Ohio State cut it to 13-7, but Bratford put down a kill to give Minnesota match point at 14-7. Mapp put down a kill to keep the match alive at 14-8, but Martin ended it on the next play with a kill to deliver Minnesota to its second consecutive Final Four.
Ohio State was one point away from taking a 2-0 lead with game point at 29- 28 in the second game. Minnesota tied at 29, but Gordon put down a kill to give the Buckeyes another game point at 30-29. Bowman answered with a kill to tie it at 30. Minnesota had a game point at 31-30, but was denied by a Gordon kill that tied it at 31. Taatjes put down a kill to give the Golden Gophers game point at 32-31, but Mapp answered with a kill of her won to tie it at 32. Byrnes put down a kill to give Minnesota its third game point at 33-32. With Minnesota having exhausted all its substitutions in the game, Marci Peniata (Plymouth, Minn.) was in the front row. The 5-8 Peniata rose to the occasion with a kill of the Ohio State block to give Minnesota game two 34-32.
In the first game, Minnesota jumped out to a 21-15 lead, but Ohio State scored four of the next six points to cut it to 23-19. The Golden Gophers maintained the lead at 27-23, but Ohio State ran off five straight points to take a 28-27 lead. Minnesota tied the score at 28, but Gordon delivered a kill to make it game point at 29-28. Martin answered with a kill to tie it at 29, and Minnesota pushed it to a game point at 30-29 following an Ohio State attack error. However, Gordon exerted her will with three straight kills to give the Buckeyes a 32-30 game-one victory.
Minnesota jumped out to a 14-12 lead in game two, but Ohio State turned the tables on the Golden Gophers with a 6-1 run to go up 18-15. The Golden Gophers cut it to 19-17, but the Buckeyes scored three of the next four points to push it out to 22-18. Taatjes and Bowman sandwiched kills around a pair of Buckeye errors to tie the game at 22. However, Gordon delivered consecutive kills to push the lead out to 24-22.
Ohio State capitalized on a Golden Gopher error to push the lead out to 25- 22. Minnesota cut it to 25-24, but Gordon answered with three consecutive kills to keep the Golden Gophers at arm's length at 28-24. Minnesota cut it to 29-27, but Mapp put down a kill to give Ohio State the game 30-27 and a 2-1 lead in the match.
"I thought it was a great match and both teams played well enough to win," said Ohio State Head Coach Jim Stone. Because we lost it's only natural to think of the ways that we could have won."
Minnesota narrowly outhit Ohio State .298 to .291, but the two teams were even in kills with 87 apiece. The Golden Gophers also outdug the Buckeyes 97 to 93. Both teams had 11 blocks on the night.
The match marked the 10th straight time that Minnesota has won in a five- game match in which it rallied from a 2-1 deficit.
Minnesota also moved its record to 9-0 in NCAA Tournament matches in the Sports Pavilion.
Ohio State setter Marissa Main had 78 assists and nine digs in the match. Mapp hit .351 (17-4-37) with 17 kills, while Meyer had 10 kills and six blocks.
Dec. 11, 2004
Sports Pavilion Minneapolis, Minn.
University of Tennessee - Michelle Piantadosi
Georgia Tech University - Lynnette Moster
Ohio State - Maya Mapp
Ohio State - Stacey Gordon
University of Minnesota - Erin Martin
University of Minnesota - Paula Gentil
Tournament Most Valuable Player
University of Minnesota - Lindsey Taatjes
Ohio State Quotes
Ohio State Head Coach Jim Stone
"I thought it was a great match and both teams played well enough to win. Because we lost it's only natural to think of the ways that we could have won."
"I'm so proud of our effort and I really think the fans saw the best player in the country, in my opinion - Stacy Gordon."
Ohio State senior outside hitter Stacy Gordon
"It's disappointing that we lost but we are very proud of each other. There is nothing to be ashamed of."
"We have a lot of freshman and young faces and as a senior I am confident that this team is in great hands."
"I'm proud to have been at Ohio for four years and I have no regrets."
Ohio State sophomore setter Marissa Main
"Like Stacy said, it's disappointing that we lost and a disappointing finish. But I'm very happy that I came to Ohio State."
Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert
"As far as we were concerned, the match went as expected. I have two words for you, Stacey Gordon. Has there ever been a better player to play the game of college volleyball? She is unbelievable. It was pretty clear to me that the Ohio State team isn't just Stacey, they have a great cast of players. So do we."
"In the end, I think it came down to us having a home court advantage. Just like last night, it came down to us making terrific plays, one-on-one blocks. We played our game five yesterday and today just terrifically with confidence and belief in what we were trying to do. That was pretty much the difference in the match."
Minnesota senior setter Lindsey Taatjes
(on predicting her success in the new offensive system) "No, especially when we started last spring, I thought I would be the accessory out there, the last option for hitting. With Erin Martin and Tri Bratford on the outside, having people key on them, it opens up a lot of things for me. It's helps that they're doing well, because it opens me up."
"It was incredible, just the atmosphere and the crowd cheering us on. Going into the fifth game , well, we don't like to play fifth games if we don't have to, but if we have to play a fifth game, we go in with confidence. We know fifth games are ours."
Minnesota senior outside hitter Erin Martin
(on going back to the Final Four) "Yeah, I think it's set in. When were doing out jog around the court, I thought, yeah, we're going back. It's something we've worked for all year, and we weren't going to let that game go. It might have looked like it at times, but we weren't going to let it go."
Minnesota freshman middle blocker Jessy Jones
(about coming in cold in game four) "It wasn't really going through my mind, I was just going to go out there and do everything I could, and I've been waiting for that opportunity for a long time. I'm a pretty fierce competitor, so I wasn't even thinking that I was cold. I was just going to do everything I could to help the team."