By Charles Hallman
Earlier this season, a reporter asked Minnesota Head Coach Mike Hebert what it would take for his volleyball squad to reach the post-season. He responded that a 5-5 mark in their last 10 games probably would be needed.
Instead, the Gophers finished the 2010 regular season with seven straight victories — 9-1 in the second half of the Big Ten season — and was awarded Sunday with the number-three seed in the Seattle Regional and 10th seed overall in the 2010 NCAA Tournament. The Gophers hosts the first and second rounds Friday and Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.
“Our team has played through a lot this season,” Hebert said after the 64-team field was announced Sunday afternoon. “We feel very well about the way we are playing heading into post-season play.”
Minnesota (24-8) was one of eight Big Ten teams selected, which ties a league record: Conference champs Penn State, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue were also seeded, the most of any conference to be selected to this year’s field.
U-M, which finished tied for second with Illinois in the Big Ten with a 14-6 mark, will play North Dakota State (20-10) Friday at 7 pm, after Creighton (20-11) versus Iowa State (20-8) at 4:30 pm. Friday’s winners will play each other on Saturday at 6 pm.
“We are familiar with all three programs coming in and have a lot of respect for each of them,” notes Hebert.
North Dakota State finished tied for first in the Summit League and received the automatic bid. They last played the Gophers in 2008 and lost in three sets.
Creighton finished third in the Missouri Valley and played Minnesota in the 2008 season opener, losing in three sets.
Iowa State tied for third in the Big 12, reaching the Sweet Sixteen last year.
The Gophers defeated visiting ISU in four sets last year, and in the NCAAs ISU defeated U-M in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
Overall, Minnesota, which reached the Final Four last season, makes its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance (30-15 in NCAA matches) and the 14th under Hebert.
The Gophers in post-season play are 14-1 in first-round matches and 14-2 in post-season home matches.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.