After closing out their regular season with a pair of road wins, the Gophers volleyball team solidified the No. 7 seed in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship.
Despite an injury riddled season, the Gophers were able to secure a top-eight seed, finishing with a 23-5 record (17-3 Big Ten). With the top-8 seed, Minnesota will host the first and second rounds of the tournament. In the first round, the Gophers will take on Fairfield, which finished the regular season with a 24-5 record (17-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic) and won its conference. Fairfield is an unfamiliar team for Minnesota, but with regular season in the rear-view mirror, the Gophers are ready to familiarize themselves with Fairfield in their first postseason match of 2019.
"We have had a pretty up and down season with lineups and everything, but we're figuring things out and we are connected more than we have ever been in the past," said middle blocker Taylor Morgan."We're just figuring things out, slowly but surely, and it's going to be really awesome. And I'm really excited to see what we have in store."
With the No. 7 seed, the Gophers came in just behind their Big Ten rivals. Wisconsin took the fourth seed while Nebraska took the fifth. With Penn State coming in at 11 and Purdue at 16, the Big Ten secured five of the 16 tournament seeds.
The action in Minneapolis begins Friday at 4:30 p.m., with Creighton and Iowa State. Creighton is unseeded in the tournament, but ranked No. 10 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. The Gophers will take on Fairfield at 7 p.m., following the conclusion of Creighton's match. If the Gophers survive Fairfield, they'll play the winner between Creighton and Iowa State Saturday.
"We'll start with Fairfield and see where we go from there," said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. "We're excited to have a good seed and we'll get ready for the weekend and see what happens. Hopefully play some good volleyball Friday, and see if we can tie up our laces again and have another crack at it on Saturday."
The Gophers are in the Texas region of the bracket. Texas took the No. 2 seed in the tournament, and should both teams survive until the elite eight, it'll will set up a rematch of an early season battle that Texas took 3-0.
Before that rematch could take place, the Gophers will need to take care of business this weekend, and they're excited they'll get the chance to do it at home.
"I think it's great. The Pav has been a really good advantage for us over the years, but it is also something really special for our fans," McCutcheon said. "Hopefully they'll be out for us and we'll have another couple sellouts. That'd be wonderful."