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Minnesota Volleyball: Gophers Kick off NCAA Tournament Against Georgia Tech

Can Minnesota make a return trip to the Final Four?

Brad Rempel—

The Minnesota Golden Gophers volleyball team will begin it’s Spring 2021 NCAA Tournament run with a match against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at 6PM on ESPN3 on Thursday. The #3 seeded Gophers will look to advance out of the second round of the NCAA Tournament and into the Sweet 16 for the 18th time in program history out of 24 tries.

Minnesota comes into the tournament after a successful Big Ten regular season where they finished second in the conference with a 15-2 record. Minnesota’s only two losses on the season are the #1 overall national seed and Big Ten Champion Wisconsin, and at #5 national seed Nebraska. The Gophers were 10-0 this season against unranked opponents.

Minnesota is led by Big Ten Player and North Region Player of the Year Stephanie Samedy. The senior opposite hitter averaged a Big Ten leading 4.11 kills per set and 4.63 points per set. She is joined in the starting rotation by fellow All-Big Ten members middle blocker Regan Pittman, outside hitters Taylor Landfair and Adana Rollins, libero CC McGraw, setter Melanie Shaffmaster, and defensive specialist Rackel Kilkelly. The Gophers were without McGraw for the last month of the regular season as she suffered a knee injury, but it appears she will be back in the lineup for the Gophers for the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota will face Georgia Tech who received an at-large bid out of the ACC. The Yellow Jackets defeated Lipscomb 3-1 in the First Round on Wednesday night to earn the match against the Gophers. Georgia Tech was led by First Team All-ACC member Julia Bergman in their match as she recorded a double double with a whopping 31 kills and 15 digs. The Yellow Jackets also have a second All-ACC First Team unanimous selection in Mariana Brambilla who averages 4.26 kills per set. The Gopher defense will need to have a good game against this pair.

The Yellow Jackets are in their first NCAA Tournament since 2009, while the Gophers are making their sixth consecutive appearance. In each of their last six appearances, the Gophers have earned a top 7 national seed. 2009 was the last time the Gophers and Yellow Jackets faced off and it resulted in a Gopher win. Minnesota is 5-1 all time against Georgia Tech with their only loss coming in 1995.

The winner of the Gophers/Yellow Jackets match will advance to the Sweet 16 and a date against the winner of the #14 seed Utah/Pittsburgh/LIU winner match on Sunday April 18th.

Thursday’s match can be streamed on ESPN3 with Sam Gore on the call. It is scheduled to begin at 6PM.