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Gophers advance in NCAA volleyball with win over North Dakota

MINNEAPOLIS—The Gophers volleyball team, looking to make it to the NCAA Final Four for the third consecutive season, took a first step toward that goal Friday night by sweeping North Dakota in a first-round NCAA tournament match at Maturi Pavilion in Minneapolis.

The No. 7-seeded Gophers (27-5) won the first two sets, but North Dakota (30-8) forced two consecutive errors by Minnesota and took an 8-4 lead in the third set. Minnesota took a timeout and slowly climbed back into the set.

Samantha Seliger-Swenson sparked the comeback with a service ace. Hart spiked a ball that couldn't be handled by two Fighting Hawks players. The kill cut North Dakota's lead to one. Then, Molly Lohman had a service ace to help the team tie it up.

Brittany McLean and Lohman accounted for consecutive kills to give Minnesota a 20-17 lead in the third set. After that, Minnesota rolled to a 25-21 set victory.

North Dakota gave Minnesota a scare in the first set. Lohman's two service aces put the Gophers up 23-17. A kill from Stephanie Samedy made it set point for Minnesota, but the Fighting Hawks clawed back into the set.

North Dakota's Sydney Griffin blocked a shot at the net to make it 24-18. Tamara Merseli added a service ace for North Dakota to cut the Gophers' lead again. An attack error led to North Dakota earning another point, but Samedy slammed home yet another kill as Minnesota won the first set 25-20.

Samedy picked up where she left off in the second set. The freshman tallied a kill and a block in back-to-back sets to put Minnesota up 17-10. Samedy's two straight points were a part of a 4-0 run for the Gophers. Lohman had two consecutive kills as well to finish off the Fighting Hawks 25-15 in the second set.

Minnesota returns to Maturi Pavilion on Saturday, where it will play Northern Iowa at 8 p.m.