Live at 5 p.m.: Watch the Gophers play Southern Cal in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA volleyball tournament. Click here for the link to the match.
Gophers volleyball preview: NCAA tournament
Sweet 16/Elite Eight weekend
Where: Stephen C. O’Connell Center, Florida campus, Gainesville, Fla.
When: Sweet 16 matches on Friday, and Elite Eight match Saturday at 5 p.m.
At stake: The team that emerges from the four-team pod advances to the Final Four.
No. 15 UCLA vs. No. 2 Florida, 3 p.m. (ESPNU)
No. 7 Gophers vs. No. 10 Southern Cal, 5 p.m. (ESPN3 and Watch ESPN app)
Friday vs. USC: The Gophers (28-5) are matching up with Southern Cal (24-9) for the seventh time. Minnesota is 2-3-1 all time against the Trojans, most recently facing them in the first match of the 2011 season and losing in five sets. USC runs a two-setter system, and AVCA All-Pacific South Region honorees sophomore outside hitter Khalia Lanier (4.19 kills per set) and senior opposite Brittany Abercrombie (3.13) lead USC’s offense. The Gophers have sophomore outside hitter Alexis Hart, freshman opposite Stephanie Samedy and junior setter Samantha Seliger-Swenson as their North region winners, while senior middle blocker Molly Lohman was an honorable mention. Samedy was also the region’s Freshman of the Year.
Quotable: “Well obviously, different team, different dynamics. That part of it’s different. But you know, just the way this team’s battled through the first couple rounds, it’s exciting to see how we deal with the next challenge. I think because we’re younger, the growth that we’ve seen over the course of the year and seeing that kind of play out here in the postseason has been, for me, particularly gratifying. Whereas last year, I think it was a little more expectation assigned to the journey. This year it seems like it’s been a little bit more, not surprising, but satisfying.” — Gophers coach Hugh McCutcheon on this year’s Sweet 16 berth.
Saturday outlook: UCLA (21-10) takes on Florida (27-1) at 3 p.m. Friday, and the winner of that match will face the Gophers-USC winner at 5 p.m. Saturday on ESPNU. The Gophers are 3-1 against Florida — the sixth-best blocking team in the nation, averaging more than three per set — all time since 1984, most recently beating the Gators in four sets in 2006’s Sweet 16, also in Gainesville. The Gophers are 2-4 against UCLA since 1991, most recently beating the Bruins in straight sets of last season’s Elite Eight.
After this weekend
The Final Four takes place Dec. 14 and 16 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Gophers have two players from the Kansas City area in sophomore outside hitter Alexis Hart and redshirt freshman middle blocker Regan Pittman. Minnesota has been to the national semifinals the past two years.