Sunday November 27, 2011No. 17 Gator Volleyball Chosen To Compete in 21st Consecutive NCAA Tournament
The No. 17 Florida volleyball team learned its postseason fate on Sunday evening, as the Gators will travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa to face future SEC opponent Missouri in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, hosted by No. 6 seed University of Northern Iowa. This is Florida’s 21st consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and the Gators’ 22nd overall NCAA Tournament bid.
The Gators, who will enter the NCAA Tournament unseeded for the second time in program history, will face the Tigers at 5 p.m. CT on Friday, December 2nd. This will be the first-ever meeting between the future SEC opponents and only the second time in program history that the Gators will travel for the first and second rounds.
The winner of the matchup between Florida and Missouri will face the winner of host and Missouri Valley Champion UNI Panthers and the MAAC Champion Niagara Purple Eagles. The second round match between the two remaining teams will take place on Saturday, December 3rd with the time to be announced this week.
“Everything that we’re doing now for the next few days is going to be all about Missouri,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “They’re easily one of the toughest opponents we’ve ever had in the first round.”
The Gators are 53-21 (.716) all-time in the NCAA Championship, including a 52-20 (.725) mark under Wise’s direction. Florida has advanced to NCAA regional action in 19 of Wise’s previous 20 seasons and has reached the national semifinal on seven occasions during that span.
“We’re excited,” senior right-side/setter Kelly Murphy (Wilmington, Ill.) said. “We knew that no matter what happened it would be tough. We’re just happy that eventually, hopefully, we’ll get to make it back to Gainesville. Right now, we’re all focused on Mizzou.”
In the 30-year history of the championship, 10 schools have been crowned champion, nine of which are among this year’s bracket, including four-time defending NCAA Champion Penn State.
Additional past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001, 04), Hawaii (1982, 83, 87), Long Beach State (1989, 93, 98), UCLA (1984, 90, 91), Nebraska (1995, 2000, and 06), Southern California (1981, 2002, 03), Penn State (1999, 2007, 08, 09), Texas (1988) and Washington (2005).
Three SEC teams made the 2011 field, including No. 14 seed Tennessee and Kentucky. Five additional teams from Florida’s 2011 schedule made the NCAA Tournament field, including the No. 1 overall seed Texas Longhorns, who the Gators defeated 3-2 (25-22, 20-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-12) in the 2011 Nike Big Four Volleyball Classic earlier this season.
“I think that we’re really excited and we were ready to see who we play,” senior outside hitter Kristy Jaeckel (Littleton, Colo.) said. “We’re ready to get in the gym and work on how we’re going to beat them. Missouri is a tough team from a really great conference, so we’re really excited to put ourselves to the test against someone new.”
Teams winning both matches will move on to regional play December 9 and 10. The pre-determined regional sites are Gainesville, Florida; Honolulu, Hawaii; Lexington, Kentucky; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. All regional semifinal games will be shown on ESPN3.com. Regional final games will air on ESPNU.
The regional winners will advance to the semifinals and final hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio, and San Antonio Sports at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, on December 15 and 17. Both national semifinal games as well as the championship game will be broadcast by ESPN2.
“We look at it as a privilege,” Wise said. “There are only 64 teams playing now and we want the players to organize their time and their efforts so that everything goes into the position so we’re playing our best volleyball.
“There are no guarantees in the NCAA Tournament,” Wise continued. “Last year, we had a perfect season (in conference) and it didn’t get us anywhere. So we’re looking at this year and we’re going to have to fight, claw and we’re going to be in a huge battle just to get out of the first round. One of the toughest matches we’ll play all year will be in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.”
Florida’s NCAA Tournament Notes
· The Gators are 53-21 (.716) all-time in the NCAA Championship, including a 52-20 (.722) mark under the direction of head coach Mary Wise.
· Including the 2011 season, UF has made 21 consecutive and 22 overall NCAA Championship appearances (1987, 1991-2011).
· The Gators have advanced to regional action in 19 of Wise’s previous 20 seasons and have reached the national semifinal seven times in the last 20 years, the last coming in the 2003 season when Florida finished as the NCAA runner-up.
· Florida players have earned 35 NCAA All-Region Team honors, including five MVP selections. Elyse Cusack was named All-Gainesville Region in 2009.