U volleyball: Gee, but it's great to be back home

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 2, 2011 - 6:53 AM

U has the chance to reach the Final Four without leaving its friendly confines.

hide

Tori Dixon, slugging the ball over the net against North Dakota State last year, is among those central to the Gophers’ tournament hopes. The Gophers play the Bison in first-round action Friday night at the Sports Pavilion.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

As the Gophers volleyball team played 15 of its first 21 matches this season on the road, players couldn't help feeling like there was no place like home. It turns out staying home in December is their specific reward for performing well enough during all those early travels.

Minnesota has the somewhat rare opportunity to reach the NCAA Final Four without leaving its home arena. The U was already slated to host next weekend's regional -- regardless of whether the Gophers played in it or not -- and by earning one of the top 16 overall seeds (No. 13) in the 64-team NCAA field, the squad also is playing host to the first and second rounds of the tournament starting Friday at the U Sports Pavilion.

Gophers interim head coach Laura Bush said the team is treating each weekend as its own miniature tournament, but the opportunity is clear: Win four consecutive home matches and the Gophers will be in the Final Four. That's in San Antonio, but by then Minnesota wouldn't mind being on the road again.

"Our whole team is excited," sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wittman said. "We did spend a lot of the first part of our season traveling. It wears and tears on your body, and it's tiring. It's nice to be home. We get our own beds, our own routines and our home crowd."

Winning, of course, is not guaranteed. The Gophers (18-11) face North Dakota State (26-8) on Friday in a rematch of last year's first-round matchup, which was also at the Sports Pavilion. The winner will face either Western Michigan or Washington.

The Gophers' season has been a mixed bag of highs and lows -- or as Bush puts it, "moments of brilliance and moments of not-so-much-brilliant." Among the highlights: back-to-back sweeps in early September over Texas, the No. 1 overall NCAA tournament seed, and another sweep at Illinois, the No. 3 overall seed. Sprinkled in, though, were inconsistent performances -- including a three-set loss at Northwestern, a non-tournament team, one day before winning at Illinois.

"I still don't think we've peaked yet," Bush said. "When we are consistent back-to-back, we are a very formidable team."

Wittman and middle blocker Tori Dixon -- both of whom were named first-team All-Big Ten players -- said the Gophers found more consistency near the end of the season. Junior Mia Tabberson has reclaimed the role of setter after splitting time throughout the year with freshman Kellie McNeil.

"Mia has had experience already," Wittman said. "It's hard for a freshman setter to come in and ... run a smooth offense."

If there's any time to be running smoothly, this is it.

"We played really well our last few matches," Dixon said. "We're definitely going off playing well, and that will hopefully give us a boost in the tournament."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Mets 8 FINAL
Atlanta 2
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
NY Yankees 1
Detroit 5 FINAL
Baltimore 4
Toronto 4 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Cincinnati 2 FINAL
Cleveland 4
San Diego 3 FINAL
Seattle 4
Chicago WSox 6 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Kansas City 13 FINAL
Texas 2
Oakland 9 FINAL
San Francisco 2
Wisc-Milwaukee 0 FINAL
Milwaukee 8
Arizona 6 FINAL
Colorado 3
Univ of Minnesota 6:05 PM
Minnesota
New York 6:00 PM
Indiana
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Orlando
Cleveland 6:30 PM
Toronto
Utah 6:30 PM
Boston
Charlotte 6:30 PM
Brooklyn
Denver 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Detroit 7:00 PM
New Orleans
LA Lakers 7:00 PM
Miami
Philadelphia 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Memphis 7:00 PM
Houston
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Winnipeg
NY Rangers 7:00 PM
Detroit
Pittsburgh 9:00 PM
Colorado
Montreal 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Longwood 65 FINAL
Presbyterian 61
Campbell 64 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 72
Liberty 18 1st Half 6:27
UNC-Asheville 22
Ohio State 18 1st Half 6:35
Penn State 21
Maine 6:00 PM
Albany
Duquesne 6:00 PM
Fordham
George Washington 6:00 PM
George Mason
Tennessee 6:00 PM
LSU
Notre Dame 6:00 PM
Louisville
SE Missouri St 6:00 PM
Morehead State
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Mount St Marys
Hartford 6:00 PM
New Hampshire
Wagner 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Long Island 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
La Salle 6:00 PM
Saint Josephs
Providence 6:00 PM
Seton Hall
UCF 6:00 PM
South Florida
Binghamton 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
UMBC 6:00 PM
Vermont
Sacred Heart 6:00 PM
Bryant
Richmond 6:30 PM
Massachusetts
Wake Forest 7:00 PM
Duke
Purdue 7:00 PM
Michigan State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Pittsburgh
St Bonaventure 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
New Mexico St 7:00 PM
TX-Pan American
Houston 7:00 PM
Tulane
Howard 7:00 PM
NJIT
SIU Edwardsville 8:00 PM
Eastern Ill
St Johns 8:00 PM
Marquette
TCU 8:00 PM
Oklahoma State
Cincinnati 8:00 PM
Tulsa
USC 8:00 PM
UCLA
Miss State 8:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Utah State 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Air Force 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nebraska 9:00 PM
Illinois
Colorado State 9:00 PM
Nevada
Boise State 9:00 PM
San Jose St
San Diego St 10:00 PM
UNLV
Oregon 10:00 PM
Oregon State
UC Santa Barbara 10:59 PM
Hawaii
Toledo 64 FINAL
Northern Ill 68
Wake Forest 69 FINAL
Boston College 53
Eastern Illinois 35 FINAL
UT Martin 68
Austin Peay 69 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 72
Virginia Tech 57 FINAL
NC State 56
Massachusetts 54 2nd Half 0:06
St Bonaventure 49
Auburn 47 2nd Half 11:01
Florida 28
Penn State 16 1st Half 6:30
Indiana 26
Clemson 5:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Davidson 6:00 PM
La Salle
Loyola-Maryland 6:00 PM
Lafayette
Boston U 6:00 PM
Colgate
Coll of Charleston 6:00 PM
James Madison
Delaware 6:00 PM
Elon
Drexel 6:00 PM
Northeastern
Hofstra 6:00 PM
UNC-Wilmington
Towson 6:00 PM
William & Mary
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Akron
Ball State 6:00 PM
Central Michigan
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Bowling Green
Western Mich 6:00 PM
Eastern Michigan
Ohio U 6:00 PM
Kent State
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Cleveland State
Illinois-Chicago 6:00 PM
Wright State
Alabama 6:25 PM
Vanderbilt
Detroit 7:00 PM
Milwaukee
Purdue 7:25 PM
Wisconsin
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is the best center on a Twin Cities sports team?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close