Gophers stay busy over break

Sure, you've got just a week left to finish your shopping, address those cards, bake the cookies and stock up on egg nog for your holiday parties. But the Gophers will keep you company, as the upcoming weeks are filled with action.

It all starts this weekend with Mike Hebert's Golden Gopher volleyball team taking part in its first-ever NCAA Final Four. The Gophers advanced to Dallas with a thrilling 3-2 win over Washington in the regional finals Saturday in Long Beach, Calif.

Minnesota is the first No. 4 seed to reach the Final Four since the NCAA began seeding the top 16 teams. Their reward is a chance to join the top three teams in the nation -- No. 1 USC, No. 2 Hawaii and No. 3 Florida.

The Gophers drew the top-ranked Trojans (33-0) in the semifinals. USC broke the NCAA record for consecutive victories with their 45th straight win, a 3-1 victory over UCLA in the regional finals. Southern Cal is the defending national champion and will give the Gophers all they can handle.

The semifinals start Thursday at 6:30, with Minnesota meeting USC first, followed by Hawaii and Florida. Should the Gophers survive, they'll get a shot at revenge in the title game, as they lost 3-0 to both Hawaii and Florida early this season.

Thursday's match will be carried live on KCCO-AM 950, and will be televised on tape delay at 10 p.m. on ESPN2. The championship match will be televised live on ESPN2 Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Dodge Holiday Classic starts Saturday

The men's hockey team tries to get its season back on track as it hosts the Dodge Holiday Classic this weekend. No. 8 New Hampshire (10-5-2) takes on No. 14 Miami of Ohio (10-6-2) in the first game Saturday at 4 p.m., with the Gophers (7-8-1) taking on Princeton (4-9-0) at 7 p.m. The winners and losers will meet on Sunday; Minnesota's game will be at 7 p.m. regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game.

The Gophers ripped off five straight wins to seemingly right the ship after a rocky start, but surrendered four third-period goals in a 6-4 loss to Alaska-Anchorage on Dec. 6. However, they have won their holiday tournament four straight times and seven of 12 overall.

Women's hoops return on Sunday

Pam Borton's ninth-ranked Gophers return from a two-week hiatus on Sunday when they host Wisconsin-Green Bay at 1 p.m. at Williams Arena.

The Gophers haven't played since a 79-53 victory at Missouri-Kansas City on Dec. 7. They will be without senior forward Kadidja Andersson, who has returned to her native Sweden for the funeral of her grandmother. She'll return in time for their trip to Virginia for the Cavalier Classic on Dec. 28-29.

Other upcoming action:

Men's basketball vs. Duquesne, Dec. 22, 7 p.m.
Wrestling at Southern Scuffle in Greensboro, N.C., Dec. 28-29
Football vs. Oregon in Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas, Dec. 31, 1 p.m.

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