First- and second-round matches in Minneapolis
When, where: Friday and Saturday, Sports Pavilion
Schedule: Friday, USC vs. Hawaii, 4:30 p.m.; Gophers vs. North Dakota, 7 p.m. Winners play Saturday at 6 p.m.
Tickets: All-session chairback seats ($30) and all-session bench seats ($20) go on sale Tuesday through the Gophers ticket office, via www.mygophersports.com or by phone at 612-624-8080 or 1-800-UGOPHER.
Conference record/finish: 17-3, tied for second in Big Ten
Quick look: The Gophers enter the tournament on a 10-match winning streak. They are 19-1 in first-round tournament matches, including 3-0 under coach Hugh McCutcheon. All four losses came to top-20 teams in five-set matches on the road. The Gophers rank sixth in the nation in hitting percentage (.290).
NORTH DAKOTA (26-9)
Conference record/finish: 14-2, Big Sky champions
Quick look: The Fighting Hawks won both the regular-season and tournament crowns in the Big Sky and are making their first NCAA tournament appearance at the Division I level. Junior Faith Dooley was named the most valuable player of the conference tournament and has 1,009 career kills. North Dakota swept its three opponents in the Big Sky tournament and has won 11 matches in a row, losing only three sets.
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (18-13)
Conference record/finish: 10-10, tied for seventh in Pac-12
Quick look: The Women of Troy, who have won six NCAA titles, made the tournament field for the 26th consecutive year. They have dropped their past three matches—all to ranked opponents —and are 3-5 in their past eight. Freshman outside hitter Khalia Lanier leads the team with 465 kills. USC was the No. 1 overall seed in last year’s NCAA tournament but was upset by Kansas in the regional final.
Conference record/finish: 15-1, Big West champions
Quick look: The No. 13 Rainbow Wahine enter the tournament on a hot streak, winning 10 matches in a row and 17 of their past 18. They made the NCAA regional finals last season and lost 3-1 to the Gophers. Hawaii is making its 24th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance under coach Dave Shoji, who has 1,201 career victories.