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Gopher Volleyball is ELITE

Minnesota made the Elite Eight after coming from behind to beat Florida in five sets.

Jon Johnston

Both teams were inconsistent set to set, but the Gophers (26-5) were able to play two consecutive good sets when they needed it. Minnesota controlled set four to force a fifth, then got an early advantage in the decisive set. The Gophers balanced offense was key as they won, 23-25, 25-14, 16-25, 25-15, 15-11.

Set five started with the teams alternating points then Minnesota ran off six in a row. The Gophers made the most of Gator breakdowns. Florida committed three errors and Minnesota made the most of other opportunities. Adanna Rollins hit a crafty cut shot hard cross for a kill, Regan Pittman threw back a Florida tip for a block and then put away a dig overpass. Florida never got closer than three the rest of the way.

Down a set, Minnesota drew the match even as they outplayed the Gators. The Gophers hit .400 and tallied three aces and three blocks. An 8-2 run gave Minnesota plenty of separation, a 19-10 lead. Samedy started it for the Gophers with a kill then Taylor Morgan was in on two blocks. Rachel Kilkelly and CC McGraw both collected aces as the Gophers made the most of three Florida errors.

Each teams made runs in set one but the Florida offense was too powerful for Minnesota to contain. Florida made the first run, 6-1 to break a 12-all tie, as they got strong play along the net, two blocks and four kills including a setter dump. Minnesota answered back with a 6-2 run to draw within one, 21-20. Florida never gave up the lead although the Gophers nearly extended the set after saving two set points, but Florida got a great pass and went Rachael Kramer for her seventh kill of the set to clinch it 25-23. Florida racked up 19 kills during the set and hit .326.

Minnesota cleaned up their game in set two, serving tougher and staying in system with good passes. Right off the bat, the Gophers were up 5-0 after a couple kills, a block, an ace and Gator hitting error. Minnesota had two more 5-0 runs before the set was over as they cruised.

Florida broke a 12-12 tie in set three as Minnesota struggled to pass and the mistakes compounded. The Gators 9-1 run included two hitting errors. The Florida run should’ve never taken off but Minnesota’s challenge at 15-12 was unsuccessful despite what looked like pretty clear video evidence.

Alexis Hart led four Gophers with double-figure kills with 16 while hitting .342. Adanna Rollins tallied 15 kills and hit .250. Regan Pittman posted 14 kills, .458 hitting, and six blocks. Taylor Morgan was solid with 10 kills, .533 hitting, and seven blocks. Stephanie Samedy led Minnesota with 17 digs and posted six blocks. Kylie Miller recorded a double-double with 49 assists and 10 digs. CC McGraw finished with 16 digs and seven assists. Rachel Kilkelly served two aces to lead Minnesota.

Minnesota outhit Florida .331-.247 and out-blocked them 13-7.

Louisville awaits Minnesota Saturday’s Elite Eight match; catch it on ESPNU at 7:00 CT.

The Cardinals (22-9) beat host Texas in five sets to continue their incredible run. The Cardinals lost their best player and lone senior Melanie McHenry back in October and have now knocked off two seeded teams en route to the program’s first regional final appearance. Minnesota leads the series with the Cardinals 5-4 and won the last matchup in 2017 in Madison for the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

With McHenry out Louisville has to had generated points other ways. One big way is Aiko Jones. The right side hitter has been excellent in the tournament averaging 4.6 kills per set and hitting .331. This team also is resilient showing no quit, not when losing McHenry, not when walking into Gregory Gymnasium, a place where Texas hadn’t lost an NCAA Tournament game since 2006. Expect long rallies and a long match as they’ll match Minnesota blow for blow.

Key Players

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

Jr. 5’7 L 8 Alexis Hamilton- 3.97 D/S, 0.26 SA/S

So. 6’2 OH 9 Claire Chaussee- 2.87 K/S

Jr. 6’1 MB 11 Anna Stevenson- 1.26 B/S (50)

Jr. 5’10 S 12 Tori Dilfer- 8.26 A/S, 0.27 SA/S

Fr. 6’2 OH 13 Amber Stivrins- 2.13 K/S, .259

Fr. 6’2 RS 15 Aiko Jones- 3.09 K/S, .250, 0.81 B/S

Fr. 6’3 MB 25 Amaya Tillman- 1.02 B/S

Louisville Team Stats

Team Kills/Set Hitting Percentage Assists/Set Service Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Team Kills/Set Hitting Percentage Assists/Set Service Aces/Set Digs/Set Blocks/Set
Louisville 12.67 .223 11.78 1.3 12.86 2.65 (20)
Opponents 11.83 .174 11.29 1.07 12.88 1.96