Nov. 27, 2005
The seventh-ranked University of Notre Dame women’s volleyball team (28-3) was tabbed the No. 6 overall seed and will play host to first- and second-round action in the 2005 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship, it was announced Sunday. Play will begin on Thursday in the Joyce Center, with Northwestern (19-11) and Texas A&M (16-13) playing at 5 p.m. (EST) in first-round action, and the Irish – who earned their highest-ever seeding – facing Atlantic 10 Conference champion Dayton at 7 p.m. The winners will meet in Friday’s second round at 7 p.m.
Notre Dame, regular-season and tournament champions of the BIG EAST Conference, gained an automatic bid to participate in the NCAA Championship for the 14th consecutive season. Dayton also gained automatic entrance due to its conference-tournament triumph, while the Wildcats and Aggies garnered two of the 33 at-large bids.
The winner of Friday’s second-round match will advance to College Station, Texas, for regional play Dec. 9-10 that will be hosted by Texas A&M. The national semifinals and final will be Dec. 15 and 17 in the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. If the bracket holds true to seedings, the Irish would take on 11th-seeded Wisconsin – which eliminated ND in last year’s second round – in the round of 16 and third-seeded Washington in the quarterfinals.
Dayton finished first in the West Division of the Atlantic 10 and then swept Temple in the final of the league tournament to improve to 24-10 and earn its third consecutive trip to the NCAAs. Northwestern finished sixth in the Big Ten Conference – which is ranked as the nation’s toughest league by the Rich Kern Percentage Index (RKPI) – with a 10-10 record. The Wildcats are 19-11 overall and are receiving votes (listed 33rd) in the latest CSTV/AVCA poll. Texas A&M was sixth in the nation’s second-toughest conference (according to the RKPI), the Big 12, with a 9-11 record. The Aggies are 16-13 overall.
The Irish earned one of the top 16 seeds in the NCAA Championship for the fifth time overall and the second time in four seasons. Notre Dame’s previous high seeding came in 1994, when it was the No. 3 seed in the Mideast Region, which would be the equivalent of being a Nos. 9-12 seed under the current seeding format. The Irish also earned top-16 seeds in 1993, ’95, and 2002.
The Joyce Center will play host to NCAA tournament action for the seventh time, having also done so in 1988, ’93, ’94, ’95, ’96, and 2002. The Irish are 6-2 in home action in the NCAA tournament.
Notre Dame and the Flyers – formerly rivals in both the North Star (from 1983-87) and Midwestern Collegiate (1990-92) Conferences – will play for the 12th time overall, but the first since 1992. The Irish lead the series 9-2, including three straight victories and a 3-0 mark at home. The teams have played three previous times in the postseason, with Notre Dame prevailing in the North Star tournament in 1986 and ’87 and in the MCC Championship in ’92 in the most-recent match.
The Irish and Wildcats have played 11 times, with Notre Dame leading the series 7-4, including three consecutive wins. ND won the most-recent meeting, a 3-0 decision in the 2002 Golden Dome Classic in the Joyce Center. Northwestern’s last victory over the Irish came in 1990 in the Joyce Center, where ND has won five of six matches.
ND and the Aggies have played seven times previously, and Texas A&M leads the series 4-3, including a three-game win in the most-recent meeting, which came in the 1997 Tour of Champions in the Joyce Center. ND’s last win over A&M came in 1994 in College Station, where the Irish are 2-0. The Aggies conversely are unbeaten in two all-time matches in the Joyce Center. Texas A&M is coached by Laurie (Flachmeier) Corbelli, who was a teammate of Irish head coach Debbie (Landreth) Brown on the U.S. national team. Brown and her husband Dennis are the Godparents for Laurie and John Corbelli’s son Russell.
Eight of Notre Dame’s 2004 opponents earned invitations to the tournament: Florida (No. 8 seed), Louisville (No. 9), USC (No. 12), Tennessee (No. 15), Louisiana State, Loyola Chicago, Texas, and Valparaiso. The Irish were 7-2 against that group.
Notre Dame is one of eight schools to have been invited to each of the last 14 NCAA tournaments, along with Stanford (25 in a row), Penn State (25), UC Santa Barbara (25), Nebraska (24), Long Beach State (19), USC (15), and Florida (15).
The 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances is the second-longest current streak of any Notre Dame sport, behind fencing. Overall, the Irish have earned 15 berths, reaching the quarterfinals in 1993 and the round of 16 in `94, `95, and `97. Notre Dame is 12-15 all-time in the NCAAs.
The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. The only teams seeded higher than the Irish were Nebraska (No. 1), Penn State (No. 2), Washington (No. 3), Arizona (No. 4), and defending NCAA champ Stanford (No. 5). Team pairings were determined by geographical proximity, with the exception that teams from the same conference were not paired during the first and second rounds.
Notre Dame and Louisville made the BIG EAST Conference one of only two leagues to have more than one of the top nine seeds, along with the Pac-10. The BIG EAST, though, got only those two teams in the field. It marks the seventh time in the last nine seasons that the conference has placed multiple squads in the NCAAs, but 2005 seemed to be the best hope yet for it having more than two NCAA invitees for the first time. The conference is ranked sixth in the latest RKPI conference rankings, and three leagues ranked lower (#7 Mountain West, #9 Western Athletic, and #10 Atlantic Coast) qualified three schools to the NCAAs. The conference immediately ahead of the BIG EAST in the RKPI, the Southeastern Conference, was rewarded with six teams in the field. Four BIG EAST teams were among the 14 non-qualifiers with the highest RKPI: Syracuse (46th in RKPI; fourth-highest among non-qualifiers and higher than five schools that earned at-large bids), Cincinnati (55th; higher than three at-large qualifiers), Pittsburgh (64th; higher than one at-large qualifier), and St. John’s (67th). The Big 12 Conference led all conferences with seven teams selected, while the Big Ten and Pac-10 joined the SEC with six qualifiers.
Four teams are making their initial appearances in the tournament: Binghamton, Virginia Commonwealth, Jacksonville State, and Alabama. ??In the 25-year history of the championship, nine schools have been crowned champion, eight of which are in this year’s bracket, including the defending champion Stanford. ??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 and 2000), Southern California (1981, 2002, 03), Penn State (1999) and Texas (1988). ?
Notre Dame’s official athletics website will be the place to follow the action this week, as it will provide live statistics via Gametracker for all three matches, plus live audio featuring the call of Stephen Hinkel and Chris Masters for all contests including the Irish.
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