UL vball 2018
Courtesy UofL Athletics

The University of Louisville volleyball team will make its 27th appearance in the NCAA Tournament when they face the University of Dayton at 5:30 ET on Nov. 30 in Champaign, Illinois. The winner of that match will take on the winner of the Eastern Michigan vs. host Illinois. 

“First of all we are excited to be in the tournament, said Dani Busboom Kelly, UofL head coach. “We figured we would be but you never know for sure when you are at-large, so to see our names up on the board is exciting. I am happy that we are playing somewhere that we can drive which makes travelling less stressful. Dayton is very, very good. They won their conference and are having an awesome year. As a first round draw, they are really tough. As the third place team in the ACC, we expected to have to play a really good opponent. Then, should we advance, Illinois is a great team they want to host for the first two weekends.”

The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball committee announced the 64-team field that will compete in the 2018 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship. Thirty-two conferences were awarded an automatic qualification, while the remaining 32 positions were filled with at-large selections to complete the bracket.

“We have fought through some nagging injuries but we are peaking and that is what is exciting,” said Busboom Kelly.  “This team feels that too. We have not played our best volleyball yet and they believe we have another level.  Nothing matters anymore. We are now in the tournament no matter what other teams have done or what we have done in the past. It is a clean slate and a whole new season.”

UofL, one of five ACC teams going to The Dance, finished the season at 21-8. The Cards were led by setter Wilma Rivera, the 2017 ACC Setter of the Year, who triggers the offensive firepower of junior Melanie McHenry, who leads the Cards in kills and middle blocker Jasmine Bennett, who is among the nation’s leaders in hitting percentage.  Look for Molly Sauer, a two-time ACC defensive player of the year to anchor the defense and unleash a dangerous serve. She is ranked No. 15 in the nation amongst active players in career digs. 

The Cardinals will face steep competition in their matchup with the Flyers.   Dayton is coming off the A-10 tournament championship that saw it defeat VCU, 3-2 (18-25, 25-15, 19-25, 25-16, 15-12. The Flyers claimed their A-10 record 12th tournament title, the program’s fourth in the last five years. Dayton’s senior Lauren Bruns was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was joined on the All-Tournament Team by senior Kendyll Brown and sophomore Brooke Westbeld. The three-day tournament was held at VCU’s Siegel Center.

It is the third time the Cardinals have been sent to Champaign for the first and second round. In 2003, the Cardinals beat Notre Dame 3-0 but fell to host Illinois 3-0 in the second round. In 2013, the Cards fell to Marquette in the first round in Huff Hall. 

Stanford University earned the top seed and will compete in the NCAA postseason for the 38th consecutive time. The Cardinal is one of only two programs to have appeared in every NCAA DI Women’s Volleyball Tournament since its inception in 1981.  

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities is the second seed followed by No. 3 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Brigham Young University earned the fourth seed. The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. Per the established bracketing principles, the top 16 seeds were provided the opportunity to host. Additionally, team pairings were determined by geographic proximity, with the exception that teams from the same conference were not paired during the first- and second-rounds
The Pac-12 led all conferences with eight teams selected from their league to compete in the championship tournament.  The Big Ten Conference was second with seven programs advancing to the tournament. Pennsylvania State University and Stanford are the only two teams that have earned berths to all 38 championship tournaments. 

Six programs are making their first appearances in the tournament: Bryant University, Eastern Michigan University, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of South Dakota, Syracuse University and the U.S. Naval Academy. 

During the previous 37 years of the championship 10 schools have won a national title, seven of which earned a place in this year’s bracket.

Previous winners competing in the field are: University of Hawaii, Manoa (1982, 1983, 1987), University of Nebraska, Lincoln (1995, 2000, 06, 15, 17), University of Southern California (1981, 2002, 03), Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001, 04, 16), Penn State (1999, 2007, 08, 09, 10, 13, 14), University of Texas at Austin (1988, 2012) and the University of Washington (2005).


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