Gophers head to Tampa

No. 9 Minnesota set for showdown against No. 3 Washington.

Gophers head to Tampa

Aleutian Calabay

The road ahead wonâÄôt be any easier for the No. 9 Minnesota volleyball team. After winning the Diet Coke Classic, including a big win over No. 12 Iowa State, at home last weekend, the Gophers now head south to the Tampa Twice Tournament in St. Petersburg, Fla. where they will play against Washington and South Florida. Minnesota (5-1) faces a tough challenge Friday night as they square off against No. 3 Washington (6-0) at 5 p.m. The Gophers have only played the Huskies twice in their history , with the first time resulting in a Washington victory in 1996. The other meeting was in the 2003 NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, in which the Gophers beat the Huskies in five sets to reach the final four. Entering this weekendâÄôs match, Washington has not lost a set yet this season. Gophers head coach Mike Hebert knows the team is facing a tough Huskies squad and said many people expect the Gophers to lose. âÄúThe outlook for us is upset time,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúWe have to enter that match knowing that we have a chance and pulling together everything weâÄôve got to pull out the upset.âÄù Leading the way for the Huskies will be Becky Perry who is averaging 3.25 kills per set, and Jill Collymore, who averages 3.22 kills per set. The Gophers counter with a solid frontcourt of their own, featuring juniors Brook Dieter and Lauren Gibbemeyer and their 3.75 and 2.92 kills per set average, respectively. Also coming on strong for the Gophers is freshman Tabitha Love. Her 18 kill game against Iowa State helped her earn Big-Ten Co-Freshman of the Week honors . Her 2.23 kills per set average is third on the Gophers. The matchup against Washington will also be chance for setter Taylor Carico, a USC transfer, to face off against a former Pac 10 rival. CaricoâÄôs strongest performance against the Huskies came Nov. 16, 2007, when she had 70 assists and 13 kills in a USC comeback victory. Minnesota faces another undefeated team on Saturday in a match up with tournament host South Florida (5-0) at 7 p.m. The Gophers have never lost to South Florida in the four matches they have played, the most recent of which was in 1992. The Bulls are led by senior Marcela Gurgel who is averaging 3.71 kills per set , and former Minnesota outside hitter Pamela Luiz and her 2.24 kills per set. âÄúI think South Florida is a team that is much better than people think they are,âÄù Hebert said. âÄúTheyâÄôre going to be at home in front of collection of rowdy fans. They are going to be loud and hostile, and those things all matter.âÄù