Utah Volleyball will make its 12th NCAA Championships appearance this week and will face Kansas State in the opening round of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship Tournament following the announcement of the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show Sunday evening.
"I am very happy to be going anywhere right now, so going to Lincoln will be a great place to play," Utah head coach Beth Launiere said. "Nebraska has a very nice venue that is volleyball specific, so that will be really nice to see that. I am excited to play Kansas State. We know a little bit about them just from following them over the years, but, obviously, we will have to get down to business and break things down."
The Utes (19-12) and Wildcats (22-8) will face each other at 3:30 p.m. (MST) this Friday, Dec. 5 at Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb. On the other side of the bracket, Nebraska (20-9), who earned the No. 14 overall seed and the right to host the sub-regional, will face Hofstra (28-5) at 6 p.m. (MST), with the winners of each match set to face each other in the second round at 6 p.m. (MST) on Saturday for the right to head to the NCAA Regional in Seattle, Wash. Regional matches are scheduled for Dec. 12-13. For a complete NCAA Championships Bracket, visit NCAA.com.
"We're thrilled. Anytime you get a chance to play in the tournament and be one of 64 teams to play volleyball in December, you've got to be excited about it," said K-State head coach Suzie Fritz. "No matter what has happened to this point, everyone starts all over. We like the opportunity."
The Utes closed out the regular-season with three-straight wins and victories in seven of its last eight matches. Five of Utah's last seven wins came against ranked opponents, with its only loss coming to No. 1 Stanford on the road. Six of the Utes seven victories came in four sets or fewer. Utah, who finished the regular-season tied for seventh-place in the Pac-12, is one of 10 conference schools in the tournament field.
"Unless we go on this streak that we just had there was a very good chance that we do not make this tournament," said Launiere. "We met a few weeks ago, and I told the players that we have one last shot to make this happen. All of the credit goes to the players. They made the decision to give it everything they have and they just kept it rolling. Our senior experience picked up, and the freshmen players started getting better, and everything just came together for us."
K-State has enjoyed one of its more notable campaigns over the last six years, recording its most regular season wins since 2008. The Wildcats, who were ranked in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll for five straight weeks earlier this season, have posted its best road/neutral record (13-4) in program history so far, including an 8-3 mark in true road matches.K-State is led by freshman Kylee Zumach, who is pacing the team in kills (406) and points (442.5). Redshirt sophomore Katie Brand leads the team in assists (1,249) while sophomore Kersten Kober is the team-leader in digs (405). Redshirt senior Natali Jones (144) and redshirt sophomore Katie Reininger (129) have helped power the team to its most blocks in a season since 2007 (328.0).
The Wildcats are 14-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 9-9 under Fritz.K-State is led by freshman Kylee Zumach, who is pacing the team in kills (406) and points (442.5). Redshirt sophomore Katie Brand leads the team in assists (1,249) while sophomore Kersten Kober is the team-leader in digs (405). Redshirt senior Natali Jones (144) and redshirt sophomore Katie Reininger (129) have helped power the team to its most blocks in a season since 2007 (328.0). The Wildcats are 14-14 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 9-9 under Fritz.
Along with Nebraska, seeded teams in the region include No. 3 Washington, No. 6 Florida State, and No. 11 Arizona. The top four seeds in the 2014 tournament include No. 1 Stanford (Ames Regional), No. 2 Texas (Minneapolis Regional), No. 3 Washington (Seattle Regional), and No. 4 Wisconsin (Louisville Regional).
The Utes are 11-11 all-time in the NCAA tournament. Utah defeated Yale in the first round before falling to eventual National Champions, Penn State, in the second round last season. All 12 of Utah's NCAA tournament appearances have come under the direction of Launiere.