Minnesota Faces #2 Texas in NCAA V-Ball Semis

The 11th-seeded Minnesota volleyball team will face the second-seeded Texas Longhorns tonight at 6 p.m. (CT) in the 2009 National Semifinals in St. Petersburg. The match will be televised on ESPN2. The winner will face the victor of #1 Penn State and #12 Hawai'i in the second match of the National Semifinals. The winners of the two semifinal matches will be in the National Championship Saturday.

Minnesota advanced to the National Semifinals with a four-set victory over third-seeded Florida State at the Sports?Pavilion on Dec. 12. The Golden Gophers were the only one of the four regional hosts to advance to the National Semifinals.

With the win over Florida State in the NCAA Regionals on Dec. 12, Minnesota advanced to its third National Semifinal since 2003. The Golden Gophers are one of only six programs in the nation to make three or more appearances in the National Semifinals over the last seven years. Minnesota is joined by Stanford (4), Nebraska (3), Penn State (3), USC?(3) and Washington (3) on that list.

With the victories over Colorado State and Florida State at the Sports Pavilion in NCAA Regional play, the Golden Gophers moved to 7-1 in their last eight regional contests. That mark is the highest winning percentage by any NCAA Division I program with a minimum of four regional appearances since 2003.

Minnesota is led by junior middle blocker Lauren Gibbemeyer (St. Paul, Minn.) who was named First-Team All-Region, First-Team All-Big Ten and claimed Minneapolis Regional All-Tournament honors. Gibbemeyer is one of only two players in the nation to be in the top 12 in blocks and hitting percentage. She is 11th in both hitting percentage (.393) and blocks (1.45 blps).

Freshman Tabitha Love (Dauphin, Manitoba) is coming off a week where she was named the Minneapolis Regional Most Outstanding Player. Love average 5.38 kps and hit .402 in a pair of four-set victories over Colorado State and Florida State at the Sports Pavilion.

Senior setter Taylor Carico (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) was also named Honorable-Mention All-Region and received Minneapolis Region All-Tournament honors. Carico is averaging 12.67 aps, 2.93 dps, 1.80 kps, 0.87 blp in the NCAA Tournament. Senior libero Christine Tan (Safety Harbor, Fla.) was named First-Team All-Region and Honorable-Mention All-Big Ten. She collected 24 digs and three assists in the Regional Final victory over Florida State.

Texas enters the National Semifinals on a 10-match winning streak, after defeating Texas A&M in three sets and Nebraska in four sets at Omaha in the Regionals to make their second straight National Semifinal appearance. The Longhorns enter the National Semifinals with a 28-1 overall record. Texas' only loss of the season came to No. 8 Iowa State on the road on Nov. 4. It was one of only two matches to last longer than four sets for the Longhorns. Texas won 22 of its 28 matches by 3-0 scores on the season.

The Longhorns are led by Big 12 Player of the Year Destinee Hooker who is averaging 4.95 kps, 2.31 dps, 0.84 blps and 0.46 saps. She is complemented by First-Team All-Big 12 outside hitter Juliann Faucette who has 3.23 kps, 1.56 dps and 0.69 blps. Jennifer Doris leads the team with 1.17 blps and has 1.37 kps. Texas runs a 6-2 with First-Team All-Big 12 setter Ashley Engle (8.86 aps, 1.84 kps, 2.02 dps and 0.63 blps) and Michelle Kocher (6.06 aps and 1.69 dps). Heather Kisner leads the team with 4.00 dps.

Minnesota and Texas have split the all-time series. The Golden Gophers won the last meeting in Hawai'i on Sept. 3, 1995 in five sets. Minnesota lost in four sets in Springfield, Mo. in the first meeting on Oct. 10, 1981.

Penn State is trying to become the first NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball program to win three straight National Titles. The Nittany Lions moved their winning streak to 100 matches with wins over Florida and California in Gainesville, Fla. Penn State is 36-0, and has dropped only five sets on the season.

The Nittany Lions are led by Big Ten Player of the Year Megan Hodge who is averaging 4.75 kps, 2.41 dps, 0.68 blps and hitting .399. Middle blocker Arielle Wilson leads the nation with a .559 hitting percentage, has 2.81 kps and 1.55 blps. Setter Alisha Glass is averaging 12.02 aps, 2.33 dps, 0.89 kps, 0.85 blps and is hitting .466. Blair Brown also has 3.00 kps, 1.54 dps and 0.90 blps. Alyssa D'Errico leads the team with 3.47 dps.

Penn State is coached by Russ Rose who is 999-159 in his 31st year with the program. Minnesota trails the all-time series 34-7 to Penn State. The Golden Gophers three-set match that was close through the first two sets at home on Oct. 11 by scores 26-24, 25-21, 25-14, and lost a three-set match on the road on Oct. 30.

Hawai'i defeated Michigan in four sets and Illinois in four sets to advance to the National Semifinals. The Rainbow Wahine enter the National Semifinals on a 28-match winning streak. The only losses of the year for Hawai'i came against Texas and Cal in back-to-back matches on Sept. 5-6. Hawai'i is the No. 12 overall seed in the NCAA?Tournament, and is also the only team to win all four matches away from home to get to the National Semifinals. The Rainbow Wahine have played 11 straight matches away from home, and have not been at home since Nov. 8.

Hawai'i is led by Kanani Davidson who has 4.25 kps, 2.30 dps and 0.65 blps. She is complemented by Aneli Cubi-Otineru who has 3.08 kps and 2.53 dps. Brittany Hewitt leads the team with 1.39 blps, and has 1.64 kps. Setter Dani Mafua has 11.81 aps, 1.77 dps and 0.67 blps, while Elizabeth Ka'aihue has 3.74 dps. The Rainbow Wahine are coached Dave Shoji 1,016-175 in his 34th season with the program. Minnesota trails the all-time series to Hawai'i 7-0. Last year, the Golden Gophers lost in five sets at Hawai'i on Sept. 4, 2008.

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