UCLA made Minnesota work for it all match long, but the Gophers were able to get it done in three sets. Every time their backs were against the wall Minnesota was able to respond.
Minnesota spotted UCLA a six point lead right off the bat in first set. They spent the rest of the set playing catchup. Down 19-16, Minnesota put together a 5-1 run to go in front, as five different players scored. UCLA sided out then traded points with Minnesota to a 22-all tie. Sarah Wilhite put one off the hands of the UCLA block and on the next point Alexis Hart sent a beautiful tip down the line for a kill, making good use of a great one-arm dig by Dalianliz Rosado. Samantha Seliger-Swenson was called for a double contact stalling Minnesota and giving UCLA another life. It was all for nothing as they couldn’t get it over net on the next point giving Minnesota the 25-23 win. The Gopher block was key during the comeback as Minnesota had five stuff blocks during the set.
The Gophers had a big run early then weathered a Bruin comeback to win the second set, 25-20. Down 7-6 Minnesota ran off seven consecutive points as they made some great plays on defense and took advantage of some Bruin errors. The Gopher lead was as many as eight, but UCLA kept scrapping and making plays. Minnesota was up 22-15 when UCLA went on a 5-1 run to draw within three. The Gophers weren’t having much success getting kills in system, but were able to take advantage of back-to-back overpasses by the Bruins putting them both down for kills to finish the set.
Not willing to go down easy, UCLA fought the whole third set trading blows with the Gophers over and over. Minnesota had the first big run stringing five points together to go up 7-4. UCLA answered tying it at 8-all. Again Minnesota scored five in a row then the Bruins tied it, this time at 14-all. The teams then passed the lead back and forth as neither team could score more than two in a row for a stretch. With the set tied at 20 Minnesota put their foot down, leaving no doubt over the last seven points. Hart started it off with a heady tip over a single blocker. Next Wilhite slammed one down the line taking advantage of a Bruin free ball. UCLA scored then Seliger-Swenson called her own number sending over a dump on the first ball. Paige Tapp and Wilhite denied UCLA to get Minnesota to set point. The Bruins were able to side out, but Wilhite put the exclamation point on the set hitting one off the face of the UCLA setter for the 25-22 win.
Sarah Wilhite led Minnesota with 15 kills, eight digs, and three blocks. Alexis Hart put down 11 kills, hitting .292. The Tapp twins both finished with seven kills; Paige had six blocks and Hannah had five. Molly Lohman also had five stuffs. Samantha Seliger-Swenson posted another double-double with 35 assists and 10 digs. Dalianliz Rosado pulled up 17 digs. Katie Schau tallied eight digs and Alyssa Goehner managed seven. Minnesota hit .229 to go with 12 blocks.
Stanford awaits Minnesota in Columbus Thursday evening at 6:00 CT on ESPN2. The Cardinal battled back from two sets down to Wisconsin to beat the Badgers in Madison. Minnesota played Stanford way back in the first week of the season losing in four sets in Palo Alto.
Fellow top seeds No. 1 Nebraska and No. 4 Texas advanced, as the other semi-final will be a rematch of last year’s national title game. Both won fairly easily in their respective regional finals. The Big Ten won two of the three regional final matchups with Pac-12 teams.