Minnesota didn’t have its best offensive night but their defense, in particular, their blocking, buoyed the Gophers as they swept Bryant 25-10, 25-16, 25-21.
Right off the bat Minnesota got off to a strong start going up 10-2 as the Bulldogs gifted them with seven errors. Two of those errors were Gopher blocks which Minnesota added three more before the set was over. Minnesota also scored from the service line two aces from Samantha Seliger-Swenson and one each from Regan Pittman and Lauren Barnes as they controlled the opening set.
As good as Minnesota’s blocking was in set two it was better in set three as they tallied nine blocks. Regan Pittman controlled the net getting two solo stuffs and contributing on four more blocks. The Gophers got off to a good start as they went up 10-5 early in the set. Later though, a seven-point run put the set out of hand, 22-11. Minnesota got two kills from Adanna Rollins, a solo block from Pittman and another with Seliger-Swenson as Bryant continued to rack up the errors.
Set three went back and forth with eight ties and three lead changes as Bryant adjusted to the Gopher block and found success tooling it and hitting high hands. Minnesota was up 14-16 when the Bulldogs rattled off three points in a row, a Gopher service error and two kills to pull in front by one. Minnesota answered with a three-point run of their own to go back in front. Bryant tied the set two more times before the Gophers closed it out with a 5-1 run. The Bulldogs made Minnesota earn it as the Gophers tallied four kills and a block.
Alexis Hart led Minnesota with 12 kills on 23 swings with one error, .478. Hart’s 12 kills were a third of Minnesota’s total, 35 below average output. The Gophers though generated plenty of points defensively as they finished with 16 blocks and benefitted from 16 other Bulldog hitting errors; Minnesota outhit Bryant .280-.008. Taylor Morgan was the lead blocker with nine followed by Regan Pittman with seven.
Samantha Seliger-Swenson finished with 31 assists and three aces and CC McGraw posted a match-high 14 digs followed by Stephanie Samedy’s 13 digs.
Minnesota will face South Carolina in the second round Saturday at 8:00 on BTN. The Gamecocks outlasted Colorado in a five-set slugfest, 34-32, 19-25, 25-12, 13-25, 15-13.
South Carolina Preview
The Gamecocks (20-9, 10-8) are back in the tournament this season for the first time since 2002 making this their eighth appearance. USC made the field by picking up two RPI Top 50 wins, ETSU and Missouri, and finishing fifth in the SEC. South Carolina currently leads the all-time series with the Gophers 2-1 although the last meeting was in 1984.
The strength of the USC squad is their serving which will put the spotlight on the Gopher passers. USC has the second best server in the country in libero Aubrey Ezell. They also boast some powerful hitters led by Mikayla Shields. Shields plays all six rotations and they’ll go to her out of the back row. Minnesota won’t be able to replicate their blocking effort but they can still have success as long as they keep track of Shields. Gopher fans will recognize USC outside hitter Brittany McLean who transferred to South Carolina after last season. McLean was an X-factor for Minnesota in the NCAA Tournament last season and could do the same for the Gamecocks.
class, height, position, # name, stats, (statistical rank nationally)
Positions: MB- middle blocker, OH- outside hitter, RS- right side 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. 5’8 L 5 Aubrey Ezell- 3.62 D/S, 0.67 SA/S (2)
Jr. 5’11 S 6 Courtney Koehler- 9.95 A/S
Jr. 6’0 RS 8 Mikayla Shields- 3.22 K/S, .272, 2.38 D/S
So. 6’2 MB 11 Mikayla Robinson- 2.16 K/S, .298, 0.92 B/S
Sr. 6’3 OH 12 Courtney Furlong- .267
Jr. 6’1 OH 14 Brittany McLean- 2.8 K/S
South Carolina Team Stats