Gopher volleyball earns No. 7 seed for NCAA Tournament, home regional

The Gopher volleyball team earned the No. 7 seed for the NCAA Tournament and will host a regional this weekend at Maturi Pavilion. ( (credit: University of Minnesota) )

The University of Minnesota volleyball team learned Sunday night it will get at least one home regional in the NCAA Tournament.

The Gophers (23-5, 17-3) earned the No. 7 overall seed and were placed in the Texas Region. Minnesota will host a regional this weekend that includes Fairfield, Iowa State and Creighton. The Gophers will open NCAA Tournament play against Fairfield (24-5) at 7 p.m. Friday at Maturi Pavilion.

The winner will advance to face the Iowa State/Creighton winner on Saturday. Those two teams meet Friday night, before the Gophers and Fairfield. If Minnesota wins the weekend regional, the Gophers would travel to Austin, Texas, for the Sweet 16 on Dec. 13-14.

It’s Minnesota’s 24th appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and seventh in eight years under head coach Hugh McCutcheon. It’s also their fifth straight season in the tournament.

The Gophers finished 17-3 in Big Ten play, which tied for second with Penn State and Nebraska. Minnesota finished its regular season with wins in four of its last five matches, including a win at Penn State on Saturday to end the season. The Gophers have won three straight matches going into the tournament, dropping just one set in the process.

"I think it’s really important. The Big Ten is a grind. For us to finish 17-3 in the conference, tied for second place, it meant a lot. Great way to finish, and then obviously getting into the tournament, a little bit of confidence. The seeding validates what we thought, that this team is pretty good after all," McCutcheon said Sunday night after the NCAA Selection Show.

The Gophers are one of seven Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament, and one of five to earn seeds. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Penn State and Purdue all earned top-16 seeds. Minnesota faced 10 teams during the season that are in this year’s field, including Florida, Florida State, Texas and Stanford. The Gophers lost to Florida State and Texas 3-0 in their second and third matches of the season, beat Florida 3-0 and beat Stanford 3-1.

Fairfield is making its 11th trip to the NCAA Tournament and fourth in the last five years. Minnesota is looking to bounce back from being eliminated by Oregon in the Sweet 16 last year at Maturi Pavilion.