Dec. 5, 2009

* Courtesy of Minnesota Athletics

The Minnesota volleyball team (26-8) advanced to the NCAA Regionals by defeating Tennessee (24-8) in three sets by scores of 25-15, 25-16, 25-18 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Knoxville, Tenn. on Saturday, Dec. 5. With the win, the Golden Gophers will return home to the Sports Pavilion to compete in their seventh NCAA Regional in the last 11 years.

Minnesota will face Colorado State in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Friday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. In the first match on Dec. 11 at 5 p.m., Kentucky will face the winner of Sunday's match between Florida State and Jacksonville State. The winner of those two matches will play in the NCAA Regional Final on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 5:30 p.m. in a match that will broadcast live on ESPNU.

"We made it a team goal to get back to Minneapolis to play in front of our fans at the NCAA Regionals, and it was very satisfying to accomplish that goal," said junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer. "During timeouts as we prepared to get back on the court, we were talking about. It was definitely a motivating force for us to get back home to the NCAA Regionals."

The Golden Gophers were led by Gibbemeyer who had 13 kills, hit .333 (13-1-36) and had nine blocks. Freshman Tabitha Love (Dauphin, Manitoba) also had 11 kills, as she registered her second double-figure kill effort in as many career NCAA Tournament matches.

"We are a very physical team," said Gibbemeyer. "I thought tonight was a great team-effort. I think it is one of our great team assets that we play very well with each other, and I thought everybody did a great job of contributing tonight."

Senior setter Taylor Carico (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) had 40 assists, 12 digs, five blocks and four kills, while Ariana Filho (Monument, Colo.) hit .533 (8-0-15) with eight kills.

Minnesota had five different players collect double-figure digs on the night led by senior libero Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) who had 16 to go with two assists. Hailey Cowles (Eden Prairie, Minn.) finished with 11 digs, seven kills, three service aces and three blocks. Megan Wilson (Lincoln, Neb.) collected 11 digs, five kills and four digs, while Jessica Granquist (Blaine, Minn.) had 12 digs.

"I thought our defensive schemes both from a digging and blocking standpoint were the difference in the match today," said Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert. "We did good job of keeping the ball off the ground and put our setter, Taylor Carico, in great position for good part of the night. From a precision and execution standpoint this was one of our best matches of the year."

The Golden Gophers outhit Tennessee .279 to .099, and had 50 kills to 29 for the Lady Vols. Minnesota also outblocked Tennessee 11.0-to-4.0, and had 69 digs to 52 for the Lady Vols. The Golden Gophers also had four service aces to two for Tennessee.

Minnesota jumped out to a 6-4 lead in the first set on a kill by Carico. After Tennessee cut it to 6-5, the Golden Gophers went on a 12-2 run to take an 18-7 lead. Minnesota led 9-6, before Carico, Love and Wilson collected three straight kills to move it to 12-6. After a ballhandling error by the Lady Vols, Love delivered a kill to make it 14-6.

Love and Cowles collected back-to-back kills to make it 16-7, and Cowles collected a kill after a Tennessee hitting error to make it 18-7. Gibbemeyer kept it at an 11-point lead with a kill to make it 20-9. Love pushed it to 23-13 with a kill, and after a Lady Vol attack error the Golden Gophers moved it to set point at 24-13. Minnesota closed out the set at 25-15 with a kill by Wilson.

The Golden Gophers outhit Tennessee .350 to .135 in the first set, and had 18 kills to nine for the Lady Vols. Love collected five kills in the first set, while Gibbemeyer had four kills and two blocks.

Tennessee moved out to a 10-9 lead in the second set, but Filho and Cowles sandwiched kills around a Tennessee attack error to make it 12-10. The Lady Vols answered with three of the next four points to tie the score at 13, but Gibbemeyer answered with a solo block and Cowles followed with a kill. Tennessee cut the lead to 15-14, but Gibbemeyer and Cowles again answered with consecutive kills to make it 17-14. Carico and Gibbemeyer followed by combining on a block, and Tennessee committed an attack error to make 19-14.

After the Lady Vols made it 19-15, Cowles answered with a kill and a service ace to push it to 21-15. Carico and Love followed with kills to make it 23-15. Gibbemeyer pushed it to set point at 24-16, and Filho and Carico combined on a block give Minnesota the set 25-16.

Minnesota limited Tennessee to a -.047 hitting percentage and hit .152 in the second set. The Golden Gophers also had 13 kills to eight for the Lady Vols, and outblocked Tennessee 7.0-to-1.0. Gibbemeyer had four kills and five blocks in the set.

In the third set, the Golden Gophers ran out to a 10-5 lead after a kill by Filho. Tennessee cut it to 11-8, but Katherine Harms (Albertville, Minn.) collected a kill and Cowles and Gibbemeyer combined on a block to make it 13-8. With the score at 15-11, the Golden Gophers scored four straight points when Gibbemeyer sandwiched a pair of kills around a service ace by Cowles and Love delivered a kill to make it 19-11.

Love delivered another kill to push the lead out to 23-15. Tennessee responded with three straight points, but Filho put the match away with consecutive kills to give Minnesota the three-set victory.

Tennessee was led by Nicki Fowler who had 11 kills and 13 digs. Kylie Marshall also had six kills and eight digs, while Kayla Jeter had seven kills and five digs. Libero Chloe Goldman also had 11 digs.