Gophers volleyball releases 2012 schedule

Charlie Armitz

The Gophers volleyball team released on Monday its schedule for the 2012 season, which begins Aug. 25.

Minnesota is slated to play eight nonconference matches, five away from home. Last season, it played seven of nine nonconference matches away from home and lost in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.

The Gophers will play on Sept. 6-7 at defending NCAA tournament top seed Texas, which they defeated twice last season at the Sports Pavilion.

They will also host North Dakota State, the team they have swept in each of the last two opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Minnesota's opponents at two early-season tournaments — the all-day James Madison Tournament in Harrisonburg, Va., and the Diet Coke Classic at home — have yet to be determined.

Conference play begins Sept. 21, when the Gophers travel to Champaign, Ill., to face defending NCAA runner-up Illinois.

Minnesota will play eight of its first 12 conference matches at home — a luxury it didn't have last year, when it played eight of 12 matches on the road to open the Big Ten season.

The Gophers posted a 20-12 record last season. They won their last three Big Ten matches to finish 11-9 in conference.

At the moment, Minnesota's spring schedule consists of an April 14 all-day tournament at the Sports Pavilion. The Gophers, NDSU, Northern Iowa and South Dakota will each play each other once.

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon is expected to join Minnesota in September, after his stint with the 2012 U.S. women's Olympic volleyball team from July 27 to Aug. 12. Assistant coach Laura Bush will lead the team in the interim until then, as she did last year.