After last season's NCAA tournament — held in April — was played entirely in Omaha with a trimmed down field of 32 teams, first- and second-round matches return to campus sites this weekend. Maturi Pavilion will host two first-round matchups on Friday with the winners playing Saturday. Minnesota is seeded 12th overall and will face South Dakota (7 p.m., ESPN Plus). It's the first official matchup between the two programs, though they often play in the spring during the offseason. Iowa State and Stanford battle in the other half of the bracket (4:30 p.m., ESPN Plus).
Gophers | 20-8 | Big Ten
After starting the season 8-5, the Gophers rebounded to finish tied for third in the Big Ten at 15-5. They are led by back-to-back conference Player of the Year Stephanie Samedy at opposite hitter along with libero CC McGraw, just named first team all-conference for the second time. Minnesota has reached the Final Four in three of the past six seasons, but its No. 12 overall seed is the lowest of any Hugh McCutcheon team that has made the tournament.
South Dakota | 20-9 | Summit League
The Coyotes swept top-seeded Omaha in the Summit League championship to return to the NCAA tournament for a second straight season. Lakeville North grad Elizabeth Juhnke just completed a stellar junior campaign at outsider hitter and was named first team all-conference. She led the league in kills with 449. Middle blocker Madison Harms also was named to the first team. She has 253 kills and 119 blocks.
Stanford Cardinal | 18-10 | Pac-12
After winning the NCAA tournament in 2016, 2018 and 2019, the Cardinal has struggled with injuries during two compressed seasons in 2021. They finished 18-10 this season — the program hadn't lost more than 10 games since 2000 — but won their final five Pac-12 matches while dropping just three sets. Setter Kami Miner was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year while sophomore outside hitter Caitie Baird and junior opposite hitter Kendall Kipp were named to the all-conference team.
Iowa State Cyclones | 16-11 | Big 12
The Cyclones tied for third in the Big 12 at 8-8 overall and reached the tournament for the 14th time in 17 seasons under head coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. They are anchored by senior transfer Marija Popovic who was just named Big 12 Libero of the Year. Eleanor Holthaus, a senior right side hitter from Rocori, was named first team all-conference for the third straight season, while middle blocker Candelaria Herrera also made first team.