AUSTIN, Texas – The Gophers, using superb hitting most of the match, extended their volleyball season with a five-set victory against Florida on Friday night.
The Gophers, seeded No. 7 in the NCAA tournament, beat the No. 10 Gators 23-25, 25-14, 16-25, 25-15, 15-11 to reach the Austin Region finals.
The Gophers (26-5) will face Louisville (22-9) on Saturday night with a spot in the national semifinals up for grabs. Minnesota has made five trips to the semifinals, most recently in 2016.
Louisville upset Texas, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, 3-2, winning the fifth set 15-12.
"I was really proud of the team for hanging in there," coach Hugh McCutcheon said. " We maintained our composure at a really solid level throughout the match, even when it wasn't going our way."
The Gophers hit .331 in the match, their production sub-par in only the third set, when they hit .205 while losing.
"I think maybe we weren't as assertive, but I think overall we did pretty good," outside hitter Alexis Hart said. "But overall we did a good job being assertive."
McCutcheon shrugged that one off.
"We're slumming hitting .200, right?" McCutcheon said. "That's not that bad. If that's the outhouse…"
Hart had 16 kills with .342 efficiency to pace Minnesota. Adanna Rollins made 15 kills, and Regan Pittman added 14. Pittman hit .458.
Morgan Taylor had a team-best seven blocks, one more than Pittman and Stephanie Samedy.
Setter Kylie Miller handed out 49 assists. Samedy led in digs with 17, one more than CC McGraw.
Thayer Hall led Florida (27-5) with 17 kills but did so with just .214 accuracy. Rachael Kramer had 15 kills. The Gators hit .247.
Minnesota swept Florida in early September, but the Gators made sure from the start they would provide more resistance this time.
Minnesota trailed for much of the first set, but the Gophers were handed a chance to overtake Florida when Hall's kill attempt at set point missed wide. That left Minnesota behind by 24-22. A kill by Rollins cut the deficit to one, but Kramer finished the set with a kill. Kramer made seven kills and hit .778 in that set.
Hart had six kills for Minnesota.
The Gophers turned the second set into a beat down. They scored the first five points. After Florida made four consecutive points to trail by one, the Gophers scored six straight. Pittman had two kills in that span, and Florida made four errors along the way. Pittman excelled in the set with five kills. The Gators hitting percentage was .000 in the set.
The third set was Florida's turn to dominate. The Gators, leading 13-12, went on an 8-1 tear. Hall finished off the Gophers in that set by hammering two kills. Hall and Mia Sokolowski had five kills each. The Gophers hit that .205 mark in the third set after reaching .365 through the first two.
Minnesota rescued its season with an easy fourth set. The Gophers sizzled with a .400 hitting efficiency. Pittman made six kills, one more than she had in the second set.
Last week, the Gophers' season was on the brink of extinction when they trailed 24-22 in the fourth set against Creighton. But they fought off two match points and won 15-10 in the fifth.
"There is probably some benefit to having already gone through a close match in the tournament," McCutcheon said. "But we also get to play in the Big Ten, where you get to play in a lot of close matches all the time. The rigor of the schedule helps."