Spartans Off to Omaha For NCAA Tournament
Spartans take on Missouri State in NCAA First Round
East Lansing, Mich. -- - No. 10 Michigan State has earned an at-large bid to the 2016 NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament and will take on No. 25 Missouri State in the first round in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday. Games will be played at D.J. Sokol Arena inside the Wayne and Eileen Ryan Athletic Center on the Creighton campus.
The Battle of the MSU's will take place at 5 pm ET on Friday. Friday's other first-round match (8 pm ET) features No. 17 Creighton and Coastal Carolina, and the winners of Friday's games will meet on Saturday at 7 pm ET.
The Spartans (21-8, 14-6 Big Ten/fourth) are the only at-large selection in Omaha -- host Creighton was the Big East Champion, while Coastal Carolina was the tournament champion from the Sun Belt, and No. 25 Missouri State earned the Missouri Valley Conference autobid.
"This is obviously one of the things we work for all year -- to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament and to compete for a national championship," said head coach Cathy George. "I think we are a little disappointed with the way we finished up the regular season, but what I am seeing from our team now is a focus. This is an experienced team, with maybe a bit of a chip on our shoulder because we feel that we're able to compete with the best in the country and have goals of a long NCAA Tournament run. While the Big Ten season is a grind, it also gives our teams a level of preparation to go toe-to-toe with the other great teams in this tournament. I think our team is really excited to get underway this weekend."
The 2017 Spartans finished the regular season with a 21-8 overall record, and were 14-6 for a fourth-place finish in the Big Ten Conference. The Big Ten has three teams seeded (No. 1 Penn State, No. 5 Nebraska, No. 7 Minnesota) and also got the Spartans, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, and Michigan into the 64-team field -- a total of eight selections.
Michigan State is making its 20th overall NCAA Tournament appearance, and earned its seventh consecutive at-large bid to the Championship, the second-longest streak in school history. MSU made it to the second round in 2011, 2014, and 2015, and advanced to the Sweet 16 both 2012 and 2013. MSU made ten consecutive NCAA Tournament fields from 1994-2003, and is now making its 10th appearance in the 13-year tenure of current coach Cathy George..
MSU's streak of seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the third-longest in the Big Ten, behind Penn State and Nebraska. In addition, MSU, Nebraska, and Penn State are the only teams to finish .500 or better in Big Ten play in each of the last seven seasons (2011-17).
Missouri State (28-5) won both the MVC regular-season and tournament titles. The 25th-ranked Bears have won 21 consecutive matches, the third-longest streak in school history and longest since 1975. Missouri State boasts the MVC Player of the Year in Lily Johnson, the Libero of the Year in Emily Butters, and the Coach of the Year in Melissa Stokes.
No. 17 Creighton (25-6) earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament with Saturday's 3-2 win at Marquette. The Bluejays, the overall No. 9 seed, had five players earn All-BIG EAST honors, BIG EAST Libero of the Year Brittany Witt. Junior outside hitter Taryn Kloth earned MVP honors at the BIG EAST Championships.
Coastal Carolina is 20-7 overall and earned its fourth consecutive NCAA postseason berth -- and seventh overall in program history -- by defeating second-seeded Texas State in last Sunday's Sun Belt championship match. The Chanticleers recorded their first NCAA Tournament victory last season when it defeated James Madison in five sets in the first round.
The four top seeds (and likely regional hosts) are No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Stanford, and No. 4 Kentucky. The winner of Saturday's match in the Omaha sub-regional will head to State College, Penn. for third-round and quarterfinal matches on Dec. 8-9.