There might be a new coach calling the shots this season, but so far at tournament time things have turned out the same.
The Gophers continued their dominance in the opening round of the NCAA volleyball tournament Friday, improving their all-time record in the first round to 16-1 with a 3-0 sweep against North Dakota State.
The 25-17, 25-21, 26-24 victory over the Bison at the Sports Pavilion marked the third time in four years the Gophers eliminated their nearby foe in the tournament.
"Each year they've gotten a little bit closer," said Gophers interim coach Laura Bush, an assistant at Minnesota the past three seasons. "I'm sure they'd like to upend a Big Ten team like Minnesota, but it's nice for us to come out of this one with a win."
The 13th-seeded Gophers hardly had a cakewalk Friday night.
The Bison (26-8), who received an at-large bid to the tournament, showed they weren't ready to get back on a northbound bus just yet after falling behind 2-0 in the match.
In the third set, NDSU battled the Gophers to 19 tie scores, taking advantage of six errors.
"They were heating up every time they were taking swings," Bush said. "We knew they weren't going to fold, and they didn't. And our players responded well."
Out of a timeout after the Bison went ahead 23-22, the Gophers (18-11) allowed NDSU to get it to set point. But Minnesota then went ahead 25-24 on a block from Tori Dixon.
A Bison error on the next serve sealed the match for the Gophers.
"It's important to come back and win the third after being up 2-0 because teams can catch fire," senior outside hitter Hailey Cowles said.
"And they did start to get their groove a little bit [by] getting us out of system. We had to close it out when they were pushing us. We don't play well when we're stressed out."
Cowles had a match-high 13 kills, one of five Gophers with at least seven kills against a Bison team that has yet to find a way to figure out the Gophers.
"I wouldn't call it a disappointment on the whole; we have advanced to the tournament three times," coach Kari Thompson said. "This is just a tough team to beat, especially at home."
Washington 3, Western Michigan 1: In a matchup of at-large teams, the Huskies (24-7) used an 8-1 advantage in blocks and 25 kills from Krista Vansant to eliminate the Broncos in Friday's first match at the Sports Pavilion.
Washington leads the nation with an average of 3.18 blocks per set. Led by Bianca Rowland's six block assists, the Huskies' strong play at the net was too much for Western Michigan (24-9), a team with only one senior on its roster.