Dixon, Wittman set for final home match

The Gophers have two more matches left in the regular-season schedule.

Gophers senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman sets up for a spike against Purdue on Sunday, Nov.24, 2013 at the Sports Pavilion.

Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Gophers senior outside hitter Ashley Wittman sets up for a spike against Purdue on Sunday, Nov.24, 2013 at the Sports Pavilion.

David Nelson

For the last four years, seniors Ashley Wittman and Tori Dixon have made the Sports Pavilion nightmarish for opponents.

But when the Gophers face off with Wisconsin on Wednesday night, it will mark the last regular-season home match of their careers.

After creating many great memories, the two seniors hope to make one more at home Wednesday night.

“I’m excited. … Playing against Wisconsin is always fun,” Wittman said. “We have a little bit to prove against them since we didn’t really show them all our stuff last time.”

The Gophers have hosted opening rounds of the NCAA tournament the last three years, but the match against the Badgers could still be the last time Dixon and Wittman play together in the Sports Pavilion.

Though the senior-night festivities could cause emotions to run high, Dixon said Wednesday will be more exciting than emotional.

“They always do stuff for the seniors … and I think that’s obviously going to be sad,” Dixon said. “I hope that’s more towards the end of the match — after the match would be great.”

Wittman and Dixon have served as cornerstones for the Gophers the last four years, helping the team average a .736 winning percentage during their careers.

“Tori and Ashley especially have carried a significant load for us,” head coach Hugh McCutcheon said. “Both have had … very strong seasons in that they’ve gotten quite a bit better over the course of the year.”

That growth was exemplified Monday when both received Big Ten weekly awards. Wittman won Big Ten Player of the Week, and Dixon took home Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. The two have a combined 17 Big Ten weekly awards.

While either could have taken full credit for their performance over the weekend, both credited their teammates.

“I’m just happy we have a really good group of girls around us to make us look good,” Dixon said.

Both said they’ve tried to lead by example throughout their careers.

“[We try] to show the younger girls what they need to live up to and how they need to keep advancing in their seasons and their careers,” Wittman said.

The two have come a long way in their own careers while maintaining a great relationship off the court.

 “We have a good balance, [and] we can talk honestly with each other,” Wittman said. “It’s nice to be able to talk to someone [on] and off the court.”

Both seniors said they hope they can cap their final season with a run in the NCAA tournament. But right now, their focus remains on the Badgers.

“We can’t overlook any teams,” Dixon said. “Our goal is to finish out these next few matches with some wins … so we can [host the] first and second round and hopefully make a statement in the tournament.”