|Minnesota (29-6) vs. Stanford (26-5) - NCAA Sweet Sixteen|
|Fri., Dec. 13||Match #1: Penn State vs. Michigan State (4 p.m.)|
|Match #2: Minnesota vs. Stanford (6 p.m.)|
|Sat., Dec. 14||Winners Meet (3 p.m.)|
|Location||Memorial Coliseum | Lexington, Ky.|
|Live Blog||Game Day Live|
|Social Media||@GopherVball | Facebook|
Dec. 11, 2013
GOPHERS SET FOR SWEET 16 ACTION
The No. 10 University of Minnesota volleyball team is making its fifth-straight appearance in the NCAA Regional Semifinal and will face No. 7 seed Stanford, Friday night at 6 p.m. CT in Lexington, Ky. The Golden Gophers and Cardinal match up will be the second of the day as No. 2 seed Penn State and Michigan State also advanced to the Lexington Regional. The two Big Ten teams will battle at 4 p.m. CT. Both matches will be played at the Memorial Coliseum on the University of Kentucky campus. Winners of the semifinals will play Saturday at 3 p.m. CT for a chance at the NCAA Final Four. The Elite Eight match will be televised on ESPNU.
FOLLOW THE GOPHERS
Both matches in the Lexington Regional Semifinals will be broadcast on ESPN3. Melissa Lee will provide the play-by-play, while Nell Fortner is the color analyst. A live blog and stats will also be made available on gophersports.com. The Elite Eight contest will be televised live on ESPNU.
DID YOU KNOW?
Minnesota has already played at Memorial Coliseum once this season as it competed against host institution Kentucky this year. As a part of the Bluegrass Battle, the Gophers defeated Louisville in three before they faced their first ranked opponent of the season in Kentucky. The Gophers lost in five to the Wildcats on Sept. 14.
MINNESOTA IN THE SWEET 16
The Golden Gophers are making their 19th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the fifth-straight in the Sweet 16. In the 19 tournament appearances, Minnesota advanced to its 12th Sweet 16, dating back to 1993 when Minnesota made it to its first NCAA Regional Semifinal match. The Gophers are 4-7 all-time in a Sweet 16 match. Minnesota defeated Purdue last year in four sets to advance to the Elite Eight. The Gophers also had Penn State in the West Lafayette Regional last year as well as Kentucky and the Boilermakers. Minnesota fell to Penn State in four to end the 2012 season. Penn State holds the longest consecutive Sweet 16 streak at 10, followed by Texas with eight-straight and Minnesota with five.
BIG TEN STRONG
The Big Ten tied its conference record with eight teams in the NCAA Tournament this year with seven advancing to the Sweet 16. That amount marks a new record as it’s the first time there have been seven from one conference to get into a Sweet 16. Advancing to its respective regionals were No. 2 seed Penn State, No. 8 Nebraska, No. 10 Gophers, No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 13 Illinois, Purdue and Michigan State. Since 2007, a Big Ten team has either won or been in the NCAA Final Four each year. The 2013 season marks the fifth time the Big Ten has had eight teams in the NCAA tournament.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Minnesota punched its ticket to the Sweet 16 when it defeated Radford last Friday in three sets and knocked out Colorado Saturday in five, both at the Sports Pavilion. Minnesota is making its fifth-straight NCAA Sweet 16 appearance and enter the NCAA Regional Semifinal with a 29-6 overall record.
Stanford (26-5) enters the regional with a pair of three-set victories in its sub-regional over the weekend, posting an opening win over Hampton, before clinching its berth in the Lexington Regional with a 3-0 win over Oklahoma.
Michigan State (23-11) advanced to the Sweet 16 with a pair of wins in the Lexington Sub-Regional, including a three-set win over Ohio on Saturday, before posting a four-set win over host Kentucky in the sub-regional finals on Sunday.
Penn State (30-2) appears in its second NCAA Lexington Regional over the last three years, using a first-round win over LIU Brooklyn in three sets, before notching a three-set win over Utah to clinch a spot in the Sweet 16.
ABOUT THE CARDINAL
Seven-seed Stanford enters the match with a 26-5 overall record and posted a 17-3 mark in Pac-12 play. The Cardinal rides an 11-match win streak into Friday’s contest. After dropping a five-set match to then-No. 4 Southern Cal (10/30), Stanford went 11-0, including a win over Washington on Nov. 20. The Cardinal has five players with over 200 kills this season. Led by middle blocker Carly Wopat, she holds a .443 hitting clip, averages 2.90 kills per set and averages 1.44 blocks per set. Outside hitter Brittany Howard has 288 kills (2.80 per set), while outside hitter Rachel Williams has 282 kills (2.76 ps). Outside hitter Jordan Burgess has 283 kills (2.72 ps), followed by Inky Ajanaku with 268. Setter Madi Bugg has 1230 assists and a team-best 32 aces. Libero Kyle Gilbert has 509 digs.
Minnesota has played Stanford four times since 2001 with the last meeting in 2007. The Gophers are looking for their first win over the Cardinal. In the last meeting, Minnesota was ranked ninth and fell to then-No. 2 Stanford in the Diet Coke Classic in four sets, Sept. 1, 2007. The Cardinal and Gophers faced off once in NCAA competition as Stanford won in 2004 in the NCAA Championship match.
GOPHERS ON THE ROAD
Minnesota finished the Big Ten season strong as it one three of its last four matches on the road. In Minnesota’s six losses, four came against ranked teams on the road. The Gophers fell at Kentucky (9/14), at Nebraska (10/4), at Penn State (10/9) and at Wisconsin (10/23), while they dropped two contests at home to the Huskers and Nittany Lions. Overall, Minnesota is 9-6 against ranked teams this season.
LEAVING A LEGACY
Seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman have both planted themselves in the Minnesota recordbooks. Dixon ranks fifth all time in total blocks (505), the best career hitting percentage (.368) and ninth all-time in career kills (1,467). Wittman ranks sixth in Minnesota history in career kills (1,761) and fourth in career digs (1,498).
MINNESOTA HOME ATTENDANCE
Minnesota has drawn well this year at the Sports Pavilion. During the regular season, the Gophers averaged 4,241 fans this year. In fact, against Penn State (11/16) the attendance ranked as the second-highest volleyball match at the Sports Pavilion. In a sellout, the Gophers drew 5,748 fans against the Nittany Lions. Prior to that, the season’s best attendance came on Oct. 19 when the Gophers packed in 5,638 fans against Michigan. On the season, the University of Minnesota ranks third nationally in average attendance.
WITTMAN’S DEFENSIVE GAME
In conference action alone, Ashley Wittman had 275 digs and ranked eighth in digs against conference opponents. She was the lone position player in that list as all others are the team’s libero or defensive specialist. Wittman had 29 digs against Northwestern (10/27), the most by any Gopher player since 2011.
NCAA ACTIVE LEADERS
Ashley Wittman reached her career kill No. 1,500 against Indiana (9/25) and heading into the week sits at 1,761 in her career. Her kills currently rank fifth nationally among active leaders. Dixon ranks 19th in the same category at 1,467 and also ranks 14th in career hitting percentage with a .368 mark.
Minnesota seniors Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman have each had standout performances for the Gophers this season. In all, Dixon has led the Gophers in match kills 20 times, followed by Wittman with 11. Wittman also has 15 double-doubles, a team best and has led the Gophers in match digs 19 times.
Gophers in the Pros: Nicole Branagh
Gophersports.com checked in with Gopher hall of famer and United States Olympian, Nicole Branagh.
Tapp Named to Pan Am Cup Roster
Paige Tapp was named one of 14 players that will represent Team USA at the Pan American Cup, June 17-25 in Peru.
Wilhite, Sheehy Up for B1G Athlete of the Year
Wilhite and Sheehy are among 28 nominees representing each Big Ten Conference institution. The Big Ten Athletes of the Year will be announced on Monday, June 19.