Minnesota to Represent Big Ten at NCAA Championship
Dec. 15, 2004
For the second consecutive season, Minnesota will represent the Big Ten Conference in the National Semifinals of the 2004 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball National Championship, hosted by Long Beach State University at Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California on December 16 and 18.
Fourth-ranked Minnesota (32-4) will take on No. 8 USC (23-5) in one of two National Semifinal matches on Thursday, December 16 at 7:30 p.m. PT. Preceding the match will be No. 5 Washington (28-2) against No. 6 Stanford (28-6) at 5:30 p.m. Both matches will be shown on a tape-delayed basis on ESPN2, with the Gophers' match being aired at 12 p.m. on Friday, while the NCAA Championship match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Minnesota entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed overall. Washington was No. 7, USC was No. 8 and Stanford was No. 11. The Golden Gophers and USC are the only two returnees from last year's National Semifinals. Minnesota was the only regional top-seed to make it to the semifinal round.
The Golden Gophers will meet the Women of Troy for the third time in the last year. Minnesota lost to USC in three games in the 2004 National Semifinal match and dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in a hard-fought five-game match in the finals of the NACWAA Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., on August 28 of this year. The Golden Gophers did record an NCAA Tournament victory over USC, which came in 1999. In that match, Minnesota rallied from a 0-2 deficit to defeat the Women of Troy to advance to the NCAA Regionals.
Minnesota enters the match having won 11 straight matches and eight of its last nine contests in NCAA Tournament play dating back to last year's National Semifinal run. USC, which is coming off its 3-2 win over top-seeded and top-ranked Nebraska in the Louisville Regional, has won 16 straight in the postseason, including the last two national titles.
The Golden Gophers rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Ohio State in five games by scores of 30-32, 34-32, 27-30, 30-28, 15-8, to capture their second NCAA Regional title in front of a home crowd of 3,734 at the Sports Pavilion last week. With the victory, Minnesota became the first Big Ten team to advance to consecutive National Semifinals since Penn State in 1998 and 1999.
The Golden Gophers were led in the match by Lindsey Taatjes, who for a second straight night posted a triple-double with 18 kills, 37 assists and 13 digs and was tabbed the Minneapolis Region's Most Outstanding Player. Prior to the Ohio State match, Taatjes recorded 14 kills, 41 assists and 23 digs against Georgia Tech.
In Minnesota's marathon match with the Yellow Jackets, the Golden Gophers came back to clinch the 3-2 win in the fifth game after a heartbreaking and exhausting fourth game that totaled a combined 94 points. The Maroon and Gold outlasted No. 20 Georgia Tech (27-7) by scores of 25-30, 30-22, 30-24, 46-48, 15-9. Both Taatjes and fellow setter Kelly Bowman recorded triple-doubles in the match, which marked the first time in school history that two Minnesota players recorded triple-doubles in the same contest. Bowman, who had her League-leading eighth triple-double of the year, posted 10 kills, 43 assists and 16 digs. The Golden Gophers were also led by senior outside hitter Erin Martin who had a career-high 31 kills, nine digs and eight blocks. Martin had a school record seven solo blocks against the Yellow Jackets. Paula Gentil, the three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, also recorded her second 40-plus dig total of the season with 41. For their efforts, Martin and Gentil joined Taatjes on the NCAA Region All-Tournament team.
A LOOK INSIDE MINNESOTA AND THE BIG TEN AT THE NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP
With the trip to the National Semifinals, Minnesota head coach Mike Hebert joins USC head coach Mick Haley and Stanford head coach John Dunning as the only three coaches in NCAA history to lead two different programs to multiple National Semifinal appearances. Hebert led Illinois to back-to-back appearances in 1987 and 1988.
Minnesota enters the USC match having won eight of its last nine contests in NCAA Tournament play dating back to last year's National Semifinal run. USC has won 16 straight NCAA Tournament, including the last two national titles.
The Big Ten has sent six different League teams to the NCAA National Semifinals and has recorded a combined all-time record of 5-7 (.417). Penn State leads all Conference squads with five appearances, while Illinois (1987, 1988) and Ohio State (1991, 1994) have both participated twice. Michigan State (1995), Minnesota (2003) will be making its second appearance, while Wisconsin (2000) has made the National Semifinals once.
In the history of the NCAA Championship, the Big Ten has been represented in the tournament's final match on five occasions - four by Penn State and once by Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions are 1-3 in the championship match, having finished second in 1993, 1997 and 1998, while defeating Stanford for the NCAA title in 1999. Wisconsin fell to Nebraska in the final match of the 2000 season.
The Big Ten holds an overall NCAA Championship record of 170-107 (.614), dating back to 1981. The Conference has boasted a combined winning percentage of .600 or higher in 10 of the last 12 years and a .500 or better record in each of the past 13 tournaments.
Should Minnesota defeat USC, the Big Ten would record a League-best 15 wins in the NCAA Tournament. Currently 14-6, the Conference posted 14-7 records in both 1995 and 1999.
With Minnesota and Ohio State meeting in the regional finals, it marked the 10th time two Conference teams battled against each other in the history of the NCAA Championship. Minnesota had faced a Big Ten opponent in NCAA action just once prior to last week, losing to Penn State, 3-0, in the 1999 regional semifinal.
Prior to falling to Minnesota in the regional finals, Ohio State (30-4) defeated Tennessee to claim its 30th win. With Minnesota currently at 32-4, the Big Ten has two teams that have won 30 or more games in a season for the first time since 2000, when the League had three. That season was the only time three teams won 30-plus games, as Wisconsin was 34-3, Minnesota was 31-3 and Penn State was 30-6. Since the Big Ten's official inception of women's volleyball in 1983, at least one team has won 30 games in 16 of the 21 seasons.
While Minnesota rallied to defeat Georgia Tech in the fifth game of its regional semifinal match, the Golden Gophers dropped the fourth game by an NCAA-record score of 48-46. Since the change to a five-game rally-scoring format in 2001, only three teams have been involved in NCAA games that have extended to 40 points and beyond. Illinois topped Missouri in the second game of a first-round match in 2001, 40-38, but a year later, the Tigers would manage to close out Northwestern in the fourth game of their first-round match by the same score.
The Big Ten sent a nation-leading seven League teams to the NCAA Championship this year. The Big 12 also fielded seven teams.
This season marked the fifth time in League history the Big Ten has had seven or more teams selected to the NCAA Championship. The League sent a record eight teams to the NCAAs in 1999 and 2002 and boasted seven NCAA participants in 1995 and 2003.
The League is 39-20 (.661) when seven teams participate in the tournament. In addition, the Big Ten is 51-30 (.630) with six participants and 22-15 (.595) when eight teams advance to postseason play.
In NCAA Regional Finals, the League is 13-11 for a .542 percentage.
During the two years in which the Big Ten fielded seven teams, Wisconsin claimed the National Intercollegiate Volleyball Championship (NIVC) in 1995 with a win over CSU-Sacramento and Minnesota earned the school's first-ever national semifinal appearance in 2003, before falling to eventual two-time defending champion USC.
In 1999, Penn State (36-1) became the lone school in the League to win the NCAA Championship.