Dec. 4, 2009

Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics

The Minnesota volleyball team (25-8) advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a four-set victory over Louisville (21-11) by scores of 25-20, 24-26, 26-24, 25-22. With the victory, the Golden Gophers moved to 12-1 in First Round NCAA Tournament matches under Head Coach Mike Hebert.

Minnesota also claimed its 25th victory, giving it 25 or more wins in nine of the last 11 seasons. The Golden Gophers will await the winner of tonight's Tennessee-Duke match in the second round, which will be played on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. (CT).

"We never really got into our full rhythm as a team, particularly on offense," said Hebert. "When that happens you have to get the ball to your outside hitters and rely on them to terminate. I thought both Hailey (Cowles) and Tabitha (Love) did a great job tonight, as they both got some big points for us when we needed them. I thought it was a very physical match, this is a very good Louisville team who we knew would be an extremely tough matchup. We are happy to advance to the next round. Our players are obviously motivated to do well in the tournament, but have some extra incentive to try to get back to Minneapolis to play in front of our fans at the regionals."

Minnesota was led freshman Tabitha Love (Dauphin, Manitoba) who tied a career-high with 19 kills and hit .316 (19-7-38) in the match. Junior outside hitter Hailey Cowles (Eden Prairie, Minn.) collected 18 kills, seven digs and two service aces. She also tied a career-high with 52 attempts in the match.

Junior Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) also had 17 kills and had four blocks in the match. Senior setter Taylor Carico (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) had a Gopher-high 59 assists, seven digs, three kills and two blocks. The 59 assists were her highest total since the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament when she was at USC.

Senior libero Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) finished with a match-high 21 digs and had two service aces, while Megan Wilson (Lincoln, Neb.) had 15 digs, two blocks and two blocks. Sophomore defensive specialist Jessica Granquist (Blaine, Minn.) also had 14 digs, three assists and one service ace.

Minnesota outhit Louisville .238 to .214, and had 68 kills to 56 for the Cardinals. The Golden Gophers also collected six service aces to three for Louisville. The six service aces tied for their third-highest total of the season. Minnesota had 69 digs to 59 for the Cardinals, however Louisville outblocked the Golden Gophers 17.0-to-7.0. The 17 blocks was the most by a Minnesota opponent this season.

"It's great to get the first match out of the way," said Gibbemeyer. "We're a little calmer now, after having some first match jitters. Louisville is a really good team, and they brought some things to the table that we aren't use to seeing. It was nice to see our outside hitters have a great match, and lead us to victory tonight."

With the match tied at 1-1 heading into the third set, Louisville grabbed the early momentum starting out on a 5-1 run. Minnesota scored five of the next six points to tie the set at six when Cowles delivered a service ace. The Golden Gophers eventually took their first lead of the set at 13-12 on a service ace by Tan. However, the Cardinals answered with a 5-0 run to take a 17-13 lead.

Minnesota trimmed the lead to 18-17 after a Louisville attack error, but the Cardinals built the lead back to four points at 21-17. With Louisville leading 22-18, the Golden Gophers responded with five of the next six points to tie the score at 23. The Cardinals led 23-20, before Love and Cowles sandwiched kills around a service ace by Granquist. Justine Landi answered with a kill to make it set point for Louisville.

Cowles responded with a kill to tie the score at 24, and Landi had an attack error to give Minnesota set point at 25-24. Tan followed with a service ace to give the Golden Gophers the set.

Louisville outhit Minnesota .270 to .182, despite the fact that the Golden Gophers had 16 kills to 14 for the Cardinals. In the set, Louisville also outblocked Minnesota 6.0-to-0.0. The Golden Gophers did collect five service aces in the set to one for the Cardinals. Individually, Love collected five kills and Cowles and Gibbemeyer each had four.

Minnesota ran out to an 8-4 lead in the first set, but Louisville reeled the Golden Gophers back in with six of the next points to tie the score at 10. The Golden Gophers scored four of the next five points and moved ahead 14-11 on a kill by Carico. The Cardinals cut the lead to 16-15, but committed consecutive errors and fell behind 19-15 after Love and Ariana Filho (Monument, Colo.) combined on a block.

The Golden Gophers pushed it to 21-17 on a kill by Love, but Louisville trimmed it back to one point at 21-20. Wilson and Cowles had consecutive kills to make it 23-20, but the Cardinals got a kill from Landi and an attack error by Minnesota to make it 23-22. Gibbemeyer halted the momentum with consecutive kills to give the Golden Gophers the fourth set 25-22 to claim the match.

Minnesota fell behind 11-10 in the first set, before scoring four of the next five points to take a 14-12 lead on a kill by Cowles. The Golden Gophers pushed it out to 18-14 on a kill by Filho. Louisville cut the lead to 20-19, but Katherine Harms (Albertville, Minn.) and Cowles came through with back-to-back kills to make it 22-19. with the score at 22-20, Cowles and Gibbemeyer had consecutive kills to make it set point at 24-20. Lecia Brown followed with an attack error to give Minnesota the set at 25-20.

Minnesota outhit Louisville .341 to .200, and had 21 kills to 11 in the first set. Cowles led the way with seven kills, while Tan had seven digs.

The Golden Gophers jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set, and still held a five-point cushion at 15-10. Louisville battled back to take the lead at 20-19, Filho delivered a kill to tie it at 20. with the score tied at 22, Gibbemeyer delivered a kill and combined on a block with Carico. It appeared Minnesota was on its way to moving ahead 2-0 in the match, but the Cardinals rattled off four straight points to win the set 26-24 and tie the match at 1-1.

Louisville was led by Lola Arslanbekova who had 20 kills and 16 digs. Landi had 13 kills, 11 digs and four blocks, while setter Gosia Lech finished with 43 assists, 11 digs and two blocks. Brown also had a match-high eight blocks and nine kills, while Lindsey Mango collected 12 digs.

"It is unusual that we lose the blocking numbers as high as they were tonight," said Louisville Head Coach Leonid Yelin. "However, Minnesota is a great team and tonight they kept the momentum longer than we did."