Minnesota crushes Siena in first round of NCAA Tournament

The Gophers will take on St. John’s in the second round.

Mark Heise

They must not have played Siena volleyball.

Just four days after Saints’ coach Garvey Pierre guaranteed a victory over the Minnesota volleyball team, saying “We will win if we come out and play Siena volleyball,” his team’s tournament run ended in abrupt fashion.

The Gophers proved to be too much, overpowering the Saints in three games to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Minnesota (24-7 overall) dominated in every facet of the match, out-blocking, out-hitting and out-digging Siena en route to the victory.

“Their coach was trying to help them out, believing that they had a chance,” senior outside hitter Kelly Bowman said. “But after thinking we deserved to be at home, then having to travel all the way to New York, and then hearing that comment, I think we were chomping at the bit to play this team.”

The Gophers came out of the gate strong, putting up 24 kills and a .488 hit percentage in game one for an impressive 30-16 win. Bowman recorded six kills to help lead Minnesota.

The second game was a little bit of a letdown however, as the Gophers dropped to a .243 hit percentage, allowing Sienna (22-13) to come as close as 19-18 late in the game.

But Minnesota picked up the pace, collecting seven kills in the final eleven points to pull away with the 30-23 win.

Coach Mike Hebert mentioned the minor slump, but attributed it mostly to some early-tournament nervousness.

“We were wound pretty tight,” he said. “I think they wanted to play well so badly that they were a little high-strung and made a few errors.”

The Gophers continued to their defensive prowess in game three, holding the Saints to just seven kills and a .000 hit-percentage.

Minnesota hit .609 and had eight players record kills as the Gophers cruised to the 30-15 victory, ending Sienna’s short tournament run.

Junior middle blocker Jessy Jones had a match-high 12 kills and hit .588. She also led Minnesota with three blocks, helping the Gophers out-block the Saints 9-1.

“It was really good to be able to get that win out of the way,” she said. “Because now we know we have the confidence and the tools to do well. There might have been jitters, I don’t know, but it was just good to get rolling.”

Minnesota to play St. John’s

With a four-game win over Albany, St. John’s moved on to play the Gophers in the second round 6 p.m. today in Albany, N.Y.

The Red Storm was led by sophomore middle blocker Hui Ping Huang who hit .613 on the night. She finished with just one hitting error and a match-high 20 kills to go along with 11 digs.

St. John’s was favored over Albany, giving Minnesota an idea of who to expect.

“That’s the team we were predicting would win,” Jones said. “But there wasn’t really a preference over the two teams. We just want to go out and play Minnesota volleyball regardless and hopefully we’ll come out with the win.”