The Minnesota Gophers wasted little time in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, disposing of the Radford Highlanders with a straight-set victory on Friday night. The three set sweep for Minnesota came with wins of 25-11, 25-19, and 25-8 as they advance to the second round to host the Colorado Buffaloes.
Minnesota was led offensively by the senior duo of Tori Dixon and Ashley Wittman who paced the Maroon and Gold early in the victory.
In set No. 1, Gophers head coach Hugh McCutcheon was able to use a full rotation of players. Radford could not get anything going as Minnesota was able to sideout 100 percent of their chances in the set. The Gophers hit .500 to open the match — one of their higher marks of the season.
Radford was able to keep things interesting in the second set. At one point, the set was tied 11-11, but that was as close to the lead as the Highlanders could get, as Minnesota never trailed on the evening. After a strong first set offensively, Minnesota was only able to hit .195 in the second stanza, but earned six team blocks in the set to help them win the frame.
The third and final set belonged to Dixon and sophomore outside hitter Daly Santana. The two would help Minnesota close out the Highlanders thanks to some strong play at the net and on the service line.
Santana finished the match with five aces and Dixon had a match-high 12 kills. Wittman was able to lead both teams in digs with 16 on the night and mixed in seven kills in the process.
With the lead in the final set at 20-3, McCutcheon was able to send out some younger players to allow them the experience of playing NCAA Tournament volleyball early in their career. This included Clelia De Felice, Paige Tapp, and Sarah Wilhite who all saw the floor for the first time in the final set.
Winners of the Big South Conference, Radford finished their season at 25-10 while the Gophers move to 28-6 overall.
In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Gophers will face a Colorado team that finished in the middle of the very tough PAC-12. The Buffaloes defeated Iowa State 3-1 in the NCAA first round and will face a Big Ten team for the first time this season when they take on the Gophers at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday at the Sports Pavilion.