NCAA First Round: Marquette vs. Louisville
Dec. 3, 2013
MILWAUKEE - The No. 22 Marquette University women's volleyball team will face former conference rival Louisville in the 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship in Champaign, Ill., on Friday, Dec. 6 at 4:30 p.m. CT. It is the second time that MU has been sent to Champaign for NCAA matches.
The Golden Eagles (25-5, 15-1 BIG EAST) are making their third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament after claiming the BIG EAST Conference's automatic bid with a 3-1 title match victory at Creighton on Saturday evening. Marquette, which also won the league's regular season crown for the first time in program history, has won 14 straight contests and 20 of its last 21 matches overall.
Should Marquette advance it would face the winner of 13th-seeded Illinois and Morehead State on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m. CT.
BIG EAST Player of the Year and tournament MVP Elizabeth Koberstein leads a prolific Marquette offense that leads the conference and ranks in the top 10 nationally in kills (14.97 per set), hitting percentage (.286) and assists (14.08 per set).
Koberstein herself is third in NCAA Division I in assists per set and upped her season average to 12.28 assists per frame during the conference tournament. The senior sits fourth in MU history 2,794 career assists and owns two of the top seven single season marks in just two years as a Golden Eagle.
Marquette has also received tremendous contributions from a group of rookie hitters, led by BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Autumn Bailey. Bailey, an All-BIG EAST First Team performer, leads the squad with 4.22 kills per set, while also ranking second on the team with 3.07 digs per frame. The Burlington, Ontario native is Marquette's all-time freshman kills leader with 460 so far in 2013.
Bailey is joined on the outside by Nele Barber, who earned All-BIG EAST Championship recognition for her play in Omaha and sits second on MU with 2.82 kills per set. Redshirt freshman middle hitter Meghan Niemann, also an all-tournament selection and first team all-conference performer in the BIG EAST, hits a team-best .347 and averages 2.71 kills and 0.77 blocks per set.
In Louisville, the Golden Eagles will face a very familiar foe against which they have limited success as members of both Conference USA and the BIG EAST. The Cardinals have halted Marquette in each of its conference title match appearances prior to this season (2004 and 2012) and MU's current senior class is just 1-5 against U of L.
All three matches in Champaign will be streamed live, free of charge on CBSSports.com ULive. Links to the broadcast and live statistics will be available on GoMarquette.com.
For additional coverage, follow Marquette volleyball on Twitter (@MarquetteVB).
SCOUTING THE COMPETITION:
With a record of 23-7 and a perfect mark of 18-0 in the AAC, the Cards will face long-time rival Marquette in a rematch of the 2012 BIG EAST tournament championship, in which U of L prevailed 3-0 in a tightly contested match.
The Cardinals get senior leadership from USA National A2 team members Brooke Mattingly and Caitlin Welch, as well as leading scorer Emily Juhl (3.65 points and 3.07 kills per set). Transfer Randi Ewing has been dominant at the net, leading the AAC in hitting percentage (.399) and blocks (0.95 per set).
AAC Freshman of the Year Maya McClendon, younger sister of Penn State star Deja, has led the Cardinals in doubles-doubles and tops the squad with 3.13 kills per set. In addition to McClendon's freshman of the year award, Welch was named AAC Libero of the Year, while Anne Kordes is the AAC Coach of the Year. Series history: U of L leads 27-4.
ILLINOIS [16-14 (12-8 B1G) | FightingIllini.com | @IlliniVBall]: The Illini, one of eight Big Ten teams in the field of 64, are making their 21st trip to the NCAA tournament and will host the first and second rounds for the 15th time. The squad is led by fifth-year head coach Kevin Hambly, who helped Illinois to the NCAA title match in 2011 after sweeping Marquette in the second round at Huff Hall where Illinois is 24-3 all-time in NCAA action.
Sophomore outside hitter Jocelynn Birks averages a team-best 3.97 kills per set and has averaged 12.73 attempts per frame this season while being named a unanimous All-Big Ten selection. Junior Liz McMahaon is second on the team with 3.11 kills per set and was Illinois' only other all-conference performer, earning honorable mention. Series history: Illinois leads 3-0.
MOREHEAD STATE [27-7 (15-1 OVC) | MSUEagles.com | @MSUATHLETICS]: Morehead State earned the automatic berth from the Ohio Valley Conference and is making its second-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Redshirt senior outside hitter Aryn Bohannon leads the squad with 2.94 kills per set, while Courtney Smith sits just behind her at 2.92 per frame.
The Eagles hit just .183 as a team in 2013, but have limited opponents to an efficiency of .137. Libero Leslie Schellhaas leads the team and ranks 22nd in the nation with 5.23 digs per set. Head coach Jaime Gordon is in his 11th campaign at MSU and was tabbed the 2012 AVCA Midwest Region Coach of the Year. He has led MSU to four straight OVC championships. Series history: MU leads 2-0.
NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP QUICK HITS:
Marquette is making its third straight appearance in the NCAA Championship.
MU has won 14 straight matches, and 20 of 21 overall since a Sept. 20 loss to then-No. 4 Florida. Marquette's 14-match winning streak ties the 1979 and 2010 teams for the longest ever.
Marquette is in the midst of the best four-year stretch in program history. Consider the following about MU's senior class:
The Golden Eagles are 1-2 all-time in NCAA tournament action with the lone victory coming in 2011 against No. 24 Western Kentucky, 3-1, at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill. MU fell to third-seeded and No. 7 Illinois, 3-0, in the second round that year and was swept by No. 21 Creighton last year in Minneapolis.
Marquette is 4-5 against this year's field of 64 with a pair of victories over Creighton and wins against Central Arkansas and Milwaukee. The losses have come at the hands of Penn State, Florida, USC, BYU and once at Creighton.
Bond Shymansky entered the 2013 season 20th among active NCAA Division I head coaches in winning percentage. He owns a 7-5 record in the NCAA Championship, and has won at least one match in all but one appearance, even reaching the Elite Eight and Sweet 16 in 2003 and 2004, respectively. He is making his sixth trip to the field of 64 and third with Marquette.
MU won its first BIG EAST regular season and tournament championships in program history in 2013 and went a program-best 15-1 in league action.
Marquette was ranked for the first time ever in the AVCA Coaches Poll on Nov. 25 at No. 24 and rose to No. 22 in the final poll before the NCAA tournament.
MU is ranked eighth in the NCAA's RPI (Nov. 30) and is the first team in at least a decade to be ranked in single digits at the time of the selection and not receive a seed (based on the NCAA's RPI database).
Senior setter Elizabeth Koberstein earned BIG EAST Conference Player of the Year and was named the most outstanding player at the conference tournament.
Outside hitter Autumn Bailey was named BIG EAST Conference Freshman of the Year after garnering six conference freshman of the week awards. She led the conference during league matches with 4.61 kills and 5.35 points per set.
Niemann and freshman outside hitter Nele Barber joined Koberstein as All-BIG EAST Championship honorees following MU's victories over Butler and Creighton in Omaha, Neb., on Nov. 29-30.
Marquette has reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth-straight season under Shymansky and the fifth time in program history overall.
Senior defensive specialist Rachel Stier became the seventh player in Marquette history to reach the 1,000-dig plateau on Friday, Nov. 22 against Xavier. Classmate Julie Jeziorowski holds MU's all-time record with 2,177 career digs.
Koberstein is fourth in program history with 2,794 assists in just under two full seasons at MU. She played her first two years at Kentucky.
Bailey is Marquette's all-time freshman kills leader with 460 this season, passing Ann Lopata's 437 in 2000. She is currently seventh on the single season list for all classes and her season averages would vault her to the No. 3 spot with another pair of contests in 2013.