Washington Volleyball Falls in NCAA Quarterfinals

LONG BEACH, Calif. - The 12th-seeded Washington volleyball team (23-9) fell to 13th-seeded Minnesota (26-10) 3-2 during the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship at the Pyramid at Long Beach State. The Golden Gophers advance to their first ever NCAA Final Four to be held in Dallas. The match marked just the second time in school history that Washington has advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals and the loss halts Washington's best postseason run since 1988. Game scores were 30-19, 30-32, 31-33, 30-25 and 9-15.

'This was another great match,' said head coach Jim McLaughlin. 'Being in coaching- these are good matches to be a part of. Minnesota played well and it played especially well at critical times- but we played well too. I was proud more than anything of the progress we made this year and we will figure out how to take this next step.'

'I think we fought hard. It didn't end up like we would have liked but we gave it all we could,' said freshman setter Courtney Thompson. 'I don't think we did the little things as well as we maybe did last night but we put 100 percent effort into it and we'll get better this spring and come back next year.'

Junior Sanja Tomasevic led the Huskies with 22 kills as Washington out hit Minnesota .240 to .211. The Gopher's defense, however, made the difference as Minnesota out blocked Washington 21-15 and out dug the Huskies 86 to 78.

Three other Huskies contributed double figure kills, including senior Kara Bjorklund and sophomore Brie Hagerty with 17 apiece and junior Kaitlin Leck with 11.

Thompson dished 70 assists on the night for her season-best total. Libero Candace Lee led all players with 29 digs and senior Libba Lawrence added 15. Tomasevic collected 13 digs and 10 blocks on defense, while Darla Myhre picked up eight blocks and Bjorklund recorded seven.

Washington overpowered Minnesota in game one, out hitting the Gophers .421 to .070. UW raced out to the 11-7 lead, aided by a 6-0 run that included three Tomasevic kills. The Huskies pushed their lead to seven points at the 17-10 mark to force Minnesota's second timeout of the game but the Gophers could not adjust as Washington held at least a six-point lead throughout the remainder of the game to cruise to the 30- 19 victory. Tomasevic had six kills in the game, while Leck added five.

Game two had 16 ties and six lead changes as neither team could pull away. Washington inched ahead by three points three times, the latest at the 24-21 mark, but let the lead slip away as a late four-point Minnesota run put the Gophers up by two points (28-26.) The Huskies tied the score at 28-all and fought off three game points before a kill by Cassie Busse gave Minnesota the 32-30 victory.

Game three was another heartbreaker for the Huskies as the plus-30 score fell to Minnesota's favor. The game included 12 tie scores as late as 31-all. Minnesota kills by Busse and Trisha Bratford gave the Gophers the 33-31 win.

The Huskies led throughout game four to stay in the match. Washington built a five-point lead at the 14-9 mark and pushed ahead by seven at 21-14. Minnesota cut the lead to three at 27-24 but a bad set and two Tomasevic kills gave Washington the 30-25 victory and forced a game five tie breaker.

The Gophers surged out to the four-point lead at the 7-3 mark in game five after two kills apiece by Busse and Bratford. The Huskies cut the lead to one at 8-7 with a pair of Gopher errors and a Hagerty kill but would get no closer as Minnesota rolled its way to the 15-9 victory.

Tomasevic and Hagerty were named to the all-tournament team as was Pepperdine's Katie Wilkins and Minnesota's Erin Martin, Paula Gentil and Most Outstanding Player Cassie Busse.

In other regional action, Florida beat Penn State 3-0 and top-seeded USC downed UCLA 3-1. Georgia Tech and Hawaii play tonight in Hawaii to decide the fourth team for the NCAA championships.

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