Minnesota made it easier on themselves Friday night, playing just three sets instead of five like they’d done in the four previous matches. North Dakota fought hard all night, but the Gophers were just too quick and too skilled.
Minnesota started the match strong, getting out to a 14-8 lead. Reaching a critical stage in the match North Dakota responded with a 7-0 run. A kill from Faith Dooley after a long rally put Teo Tepavac at the service line for the Fighting Hawks. Minnesota passed the first ball but Sarah Wilhite was called for highly questionable double contact. Tepavac then served up three aces on her next four attempts. Minnesota finally got a good pass in serve receive and Molly Lohman put it down to get the Gophers out of the rotation and tie the score at 15. Minnesota took lead back later, 18-17, with a kill each from Hannah Tapp and Wilhite. The Gophers put away UND with 5-1 run to finish the set off. Alexis Hart got the kill on set point on the first ball off a Tepavac serve as Minnesota won 25-21.
The Gophers came out on fire in the second set racing out to a 10-0 lead. Things were already going Minnesota’s way when they demonstrated some incredible defense on the fourth point of the set. Samantha Seliger-Swenson saved a dig on the second contact and later in the rally Dalianliz Rosado made a one armed stab at the ball sending it towards the media table, only for Alyssa Goehner to make a one armed save bringing the ball back into the court that was then free-balled over. North Dakota couldn’t capitalize though as Molly Lohman and Paige Tapp put up a wall denying UND and ending the rally. Minnesota didn’t even rotate all the way around as they finished the set with a succession of three point runs, winning 25-12.
Minnesota had another good start in the third set as they went up 7-3 early, including a 5-0 run that was capped off by a crafty tip to the deep corner by Hannah Tapp on an overpass. North Dakota though kept swinging away and later tied the score at 9. Minnesota answered with their own 6-2 run to get some separation. The Gophers stretched their lead to six, 20-14, with pairs of UND hitting errors and kills from Sarah Wilhite. Minnesota went on to win 25-20.
Sarah Wilhite paced Minnesota with 17 kills, 8 in the first set, and .333 hitting. Every other Gopher hitter had seven or more kills and hit .400 or better. Paige Tapp finished with four blocks and Molly Lohman had three. Samantha Seliger-Swenson had a double-double with 39 assists and 10 digs. Dalianliz Rosado led the back row with 16 digs. Minnesota out hit UND .349-.147 and outblocked them 7-4.
Middles Chelsea Moser and Faith Dooley led North Dakota with 11 kills a piece and both hit over .400. Sydney Griffin put up 27 assists. Alivia Fraase had 14 digs and Tamara Merseli pulled up 11 digs. Teo Tepavac had three of UND’s four aces.
North Dakota finishes their season 26-10 and will only lose one player, Chelsea Moser, to graduation from this year’s squad.
Minnesota will face Hawaii at 6:00 CT in a rematch of last year’s Des Moines regional final which the Gophers won 3-1. The Rainbow Wahine lost a two set advantage against USC before winning the fifth set 15-13.
Nikki Taylor led the Bows with 23 kills, 10 digs, and six blocks against USC. Four other Hawaii hitters had double digit kills, including McKenna Granato who had a double-double. Middle blocker Emily Maglio had a career best 15 kills and hit .484 to go with six blocks. The other middle, Natasha Burns also had six blocks. Setter Norene Iosia had a double-double with 46 assists and 11 digs. Libero Savannah Kahakai had 19 digs. As a team Hawaii hit .245 and tallied 14 blocks.
Hawaii (23-5, 15-1) was ranked No. 12 in this week’s AVCA poll and came in 23rd in the RPI standings. The Rainbow Wahine won the Big West this season. The Bows are 7-1 in away matches and 81-31 in the NCAA Tournament. This is the Bows 35th tournament appearance, 24th consecutive. Hawaii has won three NCAA National Championships, all during the 80s. The Rainbow Wahine lead the series with Minnesota 7-1. The only common opponent for the Gophers and Bows was Wisconsin. Hawaii lost to the Badgers in four sets.
Head Coach Dave Shoji is in his 42nd season coaching the Rainbow Wahine. He boasts a 1202-203-1 record, second only to Penn States’ Russ Rose, and has been the national coach of the year five times. Shoji’s sons Kawika and Erik are on the USA Men’s National team and won bronze in Rio. Shoji has a couple of familiar faces on his bench. Associate head coach Jeff Hall is a St. Paul native, and assistant coach Lindsey Berg played for the Gophers before going on to an illustrious international and professional career. Berg played for Coach McCutcheon during the 2012 London Olympics.
The Rainbow Wahine are tall and skilled; only one hitter is shorter than 6’3, measuring 6’0 and the Bows rank in the top 50 in all but one team statistical category. All-American Nikki Taylor leads the Bows from the right pin and gets a lot of attacks in the back row as well. Hawaii graduated two starters from last years regional finalist squad.
This will be an interesting match, Hawaii likes to swing away and does a good job feeding Maglio in the middle. However they will struggle unless they can force Minnesota to play out of system. The Gophers run a very quick offense that Hawaii’s middles, Natasha Burns in particular, may struggle to keep up with. Seliger-Swenson does a good job distributing the ball, and that will keep the Hawaii blockers guessing. Minnesota’s speed and versatility should allow them to get a lot of 1-on-1 opportunities against the block.
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
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
So. OH 3 McKenna Granato- 2.91 K/S, 0.25 SA/S
Sr. MB/OH 8 Annie Mitchem#- 2.88 K/S, .330, 0.92 B/S
Rs Fr MB 6 Natasha Burns- .323, 0.9 B/S
Fr. S 10 Norene Iosia#F- 10.44 A/S, 2.7 D/S, 0.35 SA/S
Jr. L 15 Savannah Kahakai#- 4.09 D/S
Sr. Opp 14 Nikki Taylor#P- 4.59 K/S (11), .280, 1.15 B/S, 2.35 D/S, 0.65 SA/S (2)
Jr. MB 19 Emily Maglio#- 2.35 K/S, .393 (19), 1.36 B/S (24)
# Big West First Team
P Big West Player of the Year
F Big West Freshman Team