Gophers set to host first and second rounds of NCAAs

In 2006, those attending the NCAA selection show party with the talented Minnesota volleyball team booed as the Gophers found out, via ESPN, that they would be forced to open up the tournament in New York. This year, cheers filled the room as the words âÄúMinneapolis, MinnesotaâÄù entered the screen, and the cheering continued, drowning out the words âÄúthe Minnesota Gophers will be hostingâĦâÄù Minnesota earned the sixth overall seed in the tournament, and will open up against North Dakota State Friday at 7 p.m., with the opportunity to play the winner of Northern Iowa and Iowa State Saturday, also at 7 p.m. It will be the first time the Gophers have hosted the first and second rounds since 2003. âÄúIâÄôm thrilled,âÄù senior setter Rachel Hartmann said following the announcements. âÄúFour years, and my senior year I finally get to host; itâÄôs awesome.âÄù Minnesota has placed bids to host each year, but have been met with disappointment recently, being sent to the East coast in 2006 and then to the West coast in 2007. This year, coach Mike Hebert said having the opportunity to play at home will be an opportunity for a distinct advantage. âÄúIt means more than you can imagine,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs a time of the year when everyoneâÄôs tired, and when studies are at a critical period. It means a lot to be able to sleep in your own bed, keep your own routine up each day. âÄúWhether we take advantage of that is the question, but it does set us up to hold an advantage.âÄù If the ranked teams all manage to advance, MinnesotaâÄôs road to the Final Four would go first through No. 11 Oregon, and either No. 14 UCLA or No. 3 Texas. Oregon lost in five sets to Illinois earlier this year, a team Minnesota beat in both outings. But naming the ankle injury to sophomore outside hitter Brook Dieter, ESPN analysts predicted the Ducks to upset the Gophers in the Sweet 16. Then, as if to continue a tradition of sorts, the selection show party booed ESPN. Senior middle blocker Kelly Schmidt didnâÄôt follow the crowd, but did have a different opinion from the analysts. âÄúWe donâÄôt really know what BrookâÄôs situation is right now, weâÄôre taking that day-by-day,âÄù she said. âÄúBut as a person on this team, I know that we have a deep bench and we have the talent to go far in this tournament.âÄù As far as DieterâÄôs injury status, Hebert sounded hopeful while talking about her improvement. Hebert said Dieter has been making progress, and listed her as day-to-day at this time. âÄúSheâÄôs on track to be healthy,âÄù he said. âÄúWhether she plays this weekend or not will probably be a gameday decision. We would like her to be able to play on Saturday, but the decision depends on what the trainer says, and probably wonâÄôt be decided on until that day.âÄù Whether Dieter returns to the lineup this weekend or not, it appears that she is progressing towards a return to the lineup sometime soon. But with or without Dieter, the Gophers first two rounds appear to be in MinnesotaâÄôs favor. The Gophers are 11-1 in playoff matches at home âÄì including a spotless 9-0 record in the Sports Pavilion âÄì and have won their last four matches without Dieter, with steady play from sophomore Hailey Cowles, Senior Katie Vatterrodt and junior Pamela Luiz all filling in well. Ticket prices have already been announced, as single match tickets can be purchased, in reserved seating, for $12, with general admission costing $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. All session passes can be purchased at $20 for reserved seating and $17 for Adult general admission, with a cost of $12 for students and seniors. Tickets are already on sale, and can be purchased online at Gophersports.com, over the phone at 1-800-UGOPHER or in person before the day of the game at Mariucci Ticket Office. Tickets will also be sold at the Sports Pavilion on gameday, as usual.