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Minnesota Volleyball: First Round- North Dakota preview

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Gophers start their run to the Final Four with a rematch against North Dakota tonight. Scheduled to start at 7:00 CT; will be available on BTN+ for free.

Gophersports.com

Minnesota (25-4, 17-3) earned the No. 2 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament after finishing second in the Big Ten, behind Nebraska. The Gophers received 36 of 64 first place votes, coming in at No.1 in this week’s AVCA poll, and were second in the RPI this week.

This year Minnesota will be making their 21st NCAA Tournament appearance. The Gophers are 43-20 in the Tournament, boasting four Final Four appearances including one runner-up finish. Last season Minnesota made it to the Final Four where they lost to eventual runner-up Texas in four sets.

North Dakota (26-9, 14-2) earned an automatic bid after winning the Big Sky regular season and tournament championship. This is the Fighting Hawks first NCAA Tournament appearance. UND came in at 98 in the latest RPI standings.

Minnesota leads the series with North Dakota 3-0. The most recent matchup was this fall; Minnesota won in four sets. Minnesota won the Diet Coke Classic that weekend. UND went 1-2 losing to Green Bay and beating Toledo. The only ranked team North Dakota faced all season was Minnesota.

Minnesota has won 32 straight at the Pav and will look to preserve that streak all the way through the first four rounds. UND is 10-4 in away matches.

The Fighting Hawks are coached by Mark Pryor who is in his third season at the helm. This season he was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year. On Pryor’s staff is former Gopher, Mia Tabberson (‘13), who was on Coach McCutcheon’s first Gopher squad. Tabberson isn’t the only former Gopher player coaching at the Pav this weekend. Former Olympian Lindsey Berg is on Dave Shoji’s staff for Hawaii. St. Paul native, Jeff Hall is another of Shoji’s Assistants.

The strength of the North Dakota team is their defense. They rank in the top 50 in the country for team digs- 17.47 (12) and blocks- 2.57 (30). Offensively they rely mostly on their outside hitters, but have a great middle blocker, Faith Dooley, who is an important part of their offense.

Minnesota and North Dakota will square off after the Hawaii-USC match which starts at 4:30. The second match is scheduled for 7:00 but will start a half hour after the conclusion of the first match. The match will streamed for free on BTN+.

Key Players

class, position, # name , stats, (statistical rank nationally)

Postions: M- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, Opp- opposite hitter, DS- defensive specialist, L- libero, S- setter

Stats: K/S- kills/set, B/S- blocks/set, D/S- digs/set. .000- hitting percentage, A/S- assists/set, SA/S service aces/set

Minnesota

Sr. M 4 Paige Tapp- .290, 1.09 B/S

Sr. M 7 Hannah Tapp*- 2.72 K/S, .317, 1.06 B/S

Sr. OH 8 Sarah Wilhite*P- 4.14 K/S (38), .294, 2.61 D/S, 0.25 SA/S

So. S 11 Samantha Seliger-Swenson*S- 11.45 A/S (9), 2.33 D/S, 0.28 SA/S

Jr. M 13 Molly Lohman^- .355, 1.41 B/S (19)

Jr. L 17 Dalianliz Rosado- 3.94 D/S

Fr. OH 19 Alexis Hart!- 2.86 K/S

* All-Big Ten selection

^ All-Big Ten Honorable Mention

! Big Ten All-Freshman selection

P Big Ten Player of the Year

S Big Ten Setter of the Year

North Dakota

Jr. OH/DS 1 Teo Tepavac- 2.47 D/S, 0.27 SA/S

Jr. S 4 Sydney Griffin#M- 10.65 A/S (49), 2.21 D/S, 0.7 B/S

Rs Fr. L 5 Alivia Fraase- 4.82 D/S

Jr. OH 7 Tamara Merseli#N- 2.9 K/S, 3.82 D/S

Sr. OH 11 Chelsea Moser#- 2.64 K/S, .349, 0.81 B/S

Jr. MB 13 Faith Dooley#- 2.55 K/S, .294, 1.18 B/S

# Big Sky First Team

M Big Sky MVP

N Big Sky Top Newcomer