Minnesota moves on to the Sweet 16, where it will face Iowa State. Washington ends its season 24-8.
At the start of the third set, the Golden Gophers switched setters, replacing surprise starter freshman Kellie McNeil with veteran Mia Tabberson. It seemed to make all the difference, as Minnesota's previously one-dimensional offense opened up, and star hitter Ashley Wittman began connecting.
Both Krista Vansant and Bianca Rowland had stellar matches for the Huskies. Unofficially, Vansant had 22 kills on 55 swings (.327) and Rowland--in the final match of her career--had 13 kills (.323) and 8 blocks.
The real keys to the match, however were:
- Minnesota's Katherine Harms had the match of her career, getting 29 kills (.356). The left hander did most of her damage from the right side, a vulnerable spot for Huskies' defenders all season. But she had several back row kills and a few from the left.
- Washington's two-setter offense seemed lopsided. When Jenni Nogueras was setting (albeit with Rowland in the middle), the Huskies ran their offense well. Nogueras had an exceptional night serving and playing defense. But senior Evan Sanders had one of her worst nights of the season, often slow to get to the ball and making several poor setting decisions. We'll have to see the full stats, but it seemed the Huskies usually struggled most when Sanders was setting.
- Washington's attack needed a third clutch hitter. At the end of both the fourth and fifth sets, when the Huskies were still close, Kylin Munoz (7 kills, 2 errors on 33 swings (.152) was unable to put the ball away. It often looked as if she had not retreated to her full approach position, and--as a result--she often failed to elevate and therefore hit easily diggable balls.
- And speaking of digging, Minnesota's defenders came alive in the fourth and fifth sets. Even when Washington seemed to do everything right, the Golden Gophers kept Huskies' attacks from hitting the floor. Washington's Jenna Orlandini had 25 digs, but three Minnesota players had 21 or more digs.
Beside Rowland and Sanders, this was also the final career match for Lauren Barfield. The senior middle blocker had 5 kills and 6 blocks.