Dec. 4, 2010

Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Minnesota volleyball team (26-8) advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals as it defeated Creighton (21-12) in three sets by scores of 25-19, 30-28, 25-20 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Sports Pavilion onSaturday, Dec. 4.

Minnesota will face Cal in the Regional Semifinals in Seattle, Wash. on Friday, Dec. 10. On the other side of the bracket Nebraska will face Washington on Dec. 10. The winners will play on Saturday, Dec. 11 in a match to decided one of the berths in the 2010 National Semifinals in Kansas City, Mo.

Minnesota has now advanced to the NCAA Regionals for the eighth time since 1999 and for the second consecutive year. The Gophers are 32-15 (.681) in the NCAA Tournament, 16-2 in home matches and 11-1 at the Sports Pavilion.

"It's obvious there are a lot of really good volleyball teams playing in Division I right now because we just played one of them," said Hebet. "Creighton is a very well-coached team. The things they were doing against us were very stressful. We didn't respond at times because they were just really good at what they did. They out-served us in the match. Our passing was solid at times, kind of on the edge at times, but most of that was due to some pretty good serving by Creighton. I thought Ashley Wittman was outstanding on the left side tonight. I thought that without that kind of performance, we were probably going to struggle more than we did. I thought it was maybe her best hitting night of the season. We thought our middles would be in good shape against their middles. It turned it was an even matchup. I was just really impressed with what Creighton did. We're really happy to be moving on to the Sweet 16 out in Seattle."

Freshman Ashley Wittman (Shakopee, Minn.) had a match-high 19 kills and nine digs to pace the Gophers attac on the night. Tori Dixon (Burnsville, Minn.) hit .625 (12-2-16) with 12 kills, four digs and four solo blocks on the night. Tabi Love (Dauphin, Manitoba) had nine kills, while Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) had eight kills and three blocks in her final career match at the Sports Pavilion.

"We're in tournament time now, and I just want to give it my all, because every match could be our last match," said Wittman. "I just go with the mindset of 'Do the best I can,' and get the points for my team, because most of the balls go to the outside anyway, so I need to help out and just go for it."

Sophomore Mia Tabberson (Muncie, Ind.) finished with 48 assists, nine digs, four kills and two blocks, while Jessica Granquist (Blaine, Minn.) had 21 digs and three assists. Katherine Harms (Albertville, Minn.) also had 14 digs, five kills and three assists, while Steffi Sooter (Santa Cruz, Calif.) had 11 digs.

"It was awesome. Obviously going out with a win is the way to go," said Gibbemeyer. "I'm very thankful that everyone has stepped up toward the end of the season, and we're all playing for each other. It's not an individual game anymore."

Creighton and Minnesota played a tight first set, as there were 12 ties and neither team led by more than two points before the score was tied at 17. Harms and Wittman delivered consecutive kills, and after consecutive attack errors by the Bluejays the Gophers led 21-17. Witman finished a 5-0 run with a kill, and Love eventually moved it to set point at 24-18. After Creighton fought off the first set point, Gibbemeyer finished the set with a kill. Wittman and Dixon paced the Gophers with seven and five kills respectively in the set.

The Gophers ran out to a 15-10 lead in the second set, before Creighton responded with 7-1 run to take a 17-16 lead. After Allie Oelke put the Bluejays up 21-19 with a kill, Love and Dixon answered with kills to tie it at 21. Oelke made it 22-21 with another kill, but Dixon and tied it and Wittman delivered consecutive kills to make it set point at 24-22.

Creighton fought off both set point to tie it at 24. After Wittman's kill made it set point at 25-24, the Bluejays scored the next two points and made it set point at 26-25 on a kill by Heather Thorson. Minnesota answered with consecutive points and made it set point at 27-26 on a kill by Love. Creighton again responded with a pair of points and had set point at 28-27 after a Gopher attack error. Love responded with consecutive kills to make it set point at 29-28, and Dixon made a nice touch-shot into the back right corner for a kill to give Minnesota the set 30-28. Wittman and Love had eight and six kills respectively in the set.

Minnesota outhit Creighton .271 (18-5-48) to .128 (13-7-47) in the final set to to claim the match in three sets. The Gophers also had 18 kills to 13 in the set as well.

The Gophers outit the Bluejays .271 (57-19-138) to .171 (11-4-41) on the night, and had 57 kills to 42 on the night. Both teams finished with seven blocks. Minnesota also had 70 digs to 53 for Creighton.

Creighton was led by Laurel Sanford who had 12 kills, three blocks and three service aces. Setter Megan Bober had 31 assists, six kills, six digs and four blocks, while Nayka Benitez finished with a team-high 19 digs and five assists.