The No. 9 ranked University of Louisville volleyball team is seeded tenth and will host Belmont in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship. Tennessee will face Michigan as the other two teams set to invade the KFC Yum! Center playing the early game Thursday at 5 p.m. with the Cards following at 7:30 p.m.
"It is very rare to play a team you just played going into the tournament," said U of L head coach Anne Kordes. "It means everything to host for us. We have such a wonderful home court advantage. We are nationally ranked in attendance and being home gives all our fans an opportunity to cheer us on down at the KFC Yum! The arena can be a little bit intimidating just due to the sheer size of it, whereas it is comfortable for us and it is our home. Playing at home and in front of our fans is what we have been working for all year and it is why we scheduled the way we did."
The No. 9 Cards (29-3, 15-1 BIG EAST) are currently in the midst of a 13-match winning streak that extends back to Oct. 12. Louisville swept St. John's, Cincinnati, and Marquette to win the BIG EAST Championship and earned the automatic qualifer. It marked the first time that Louisville had won the BIG EAST Championship and regular season titles in the same season.
The Cardinals just played Belmont, Friday, Nov. 23 in Cardinal Arena when Gwen Rucker celebrated her senior night with 15 kills, hitting .833 and adding two blocks as she led the Cards to a 26-24, 25-21, 25-14 win over the OVC Champion. The Cards hit .342 as a team and out-blocked the Bruins 9-7. Fellow seniors Lola Arslanbekova had 14 kills and six digs with Tanya Lukyanenko chipping in eight. The fourth senior, Kaitlynn James, had seven kills and seven digs. Belmont was led by Jocelyn Youngdahl's 10 kills. The Bruins were able to ace the Cards four times, led by Marissa Hine's two. Belmont defeated top-seeded Morehead State (3-1) in the OVC title match to earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA. Prior to Friday, the Bruins had won five games in a row and now enter the tournament winning 10 of their last 12 matches.
Should the Cardinals advance, they will face the winner of the Tennessee/Michigan match on 7:30 on Friday, also in the KFC Yum! Center. The Tennessee Lady Vol volleyball team is making its school record fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012 after earning a place in the 64-team field. The Big Orange finishes the season with a 22-7 overall record and a 15-5 mark in Southeastern Conference play and were runners-up in the Eastern Division.
Michigan (23-11) will make its seventh straight and 13th overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines advanced to the regional final in 2009 and have made four regional semifinal appearances, including in 2011 by defeating Baylor and Stanford to advance to the Gainesville Regional. Michigan finished 11-9 in the Big Ten, good for a tie for sixth place. The Maize and Blue also has five wins against nationally ranked opponents and are coming off back-to-back road wins against rivals Michigan State and No. 14 Ohio State.
The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Committee announced today the 64-team field with thirty-one conferences being awarded automatic qualification, and the remaining 33 slots being filled with at-large selections to complete the bracket.
The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. The teams tabbed as the top four seeds were No. 1 Pennsylvania State University; No. 2 Stanford University; No. 3 University of Texas at Austin; and No. 4 University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
Per the established bracketing principles the top 16 seeds were provided the opportunity to host. In addition, first- and second-round conference matchups were avoided and team pairings were determined by geographical proximity.
In the 31-year history of the championship, 10 schools have been crowned champion, eight of which are in this year's bracket, including defending champion, University of California, Los Angeles.
Past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001, 04), University of Hawaii, Manoa (1982, 83, 87), UCLA (1984, 90, 91, 2011), Nebraska (1995, 2000, and 06), University of Southern California (1981, 2002, 03), Penn State (1999, 2007, 08, 09 and 10), Texas (1988) and University of Washington (2005).
First- and second-round matches will be played at 16 campus sites. The Cardinals feed into the Berkeley, Calif. Regional.