Gophers staying home for NCAA first two rounds

Minnesota’s 19th ranked volleyball team will play host to the first two rounds of the NCAA Division-I tournament this weekend.

The Gophers (22-10) earned the 13th seed in the Long Beach Regional bracket of the tournament.

Minnesota – who tied for second place in the Big Ten – will play host the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (23-10) in the first round.

“I know that if these two teams play at their best, which I expect them to do, then Minnesota should win,” Gophers coach Mike Hebert said.

The Gophers will play the Phoenix at 7:00 p.m. on Friday evening, or 30 minutes after the evening’s first match – a 5:00 contest between No. 19 UC-Santa Barbara (19-8) and 13th-ranked Northern Iowa (16-3).

If Minnesota should advance, it would host a 7:00 Saturday match against the winner of the UCSB and Northern Iowa match.

Hebert is happy about his team’s regular season effort and has high hopes for this year’s tournament.

“We weren’t expected to win the championship last year, but did,” Hebert said. “I’m very pleased that we’re hosting. I’m more proud of the staff and the players and the job they’ve done this year.”

– Jeff Barthel