Nov. 30, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
The 20th-ranked University of Notre Dame volleyball team (23-6) earned its 12th consecutive berth to the NCAA Championship when the field was announced Sunday evening. The Irish will travel to Champaign, Ill. to be part of the only subregional with three of the four teams ranked among the national top 20, opening play on Friday vs. #17 Louisville at 5 p.m. (CST) in Huff Hall. The other first-round match will feature host #18 Illinois, the tournament’s No. 15 overall seed, against Murray State at 7 p.m. (CST). The winners will play in second-round action on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CST).
Notre Dame, regular-season co-champions of the BIG EAST Conference, earned one of the 33 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. Illinois also gained an at-large berth, while Murray State and Louisville took two of the 31 automatic berths.
The winner of Saturday’s second-round match will advance to Honolulu, Hawaii for regional play Dec. 12-13. The final four is slated for Dec. 18 and 20 in Dallas, Texas.
Louisville, a co-champion of Conference USA with Cincinnati, won its league tournament and stands 24-5 eading into the NCAAs. Illinois tied with Minnesota for second place in the Big Ten Conference and is 24-6. Murray State will make its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship, having won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a 24-5 record.
The Irish have won 12 of 14 previous meetings with the Cardinals, with the most recent coming in the 1999 Shamrock Invitational. Notre Dame has won all three previous matches on neutral courts. Notre Dame and Murray State have never played, while Illinois has won five of six previous contests against the Irish, though all of the Illini wins came before 1992. Notre Dame did win the last encounter, in 1993. Illinois eliminated the Irish from the 1988 NCAA tournament, the first year Notre Dame earned a spot in the event.
Seven Notre Dame opponents earned invitations to the tournament: Arizona, Northern Iowa, Pepperdine (No. 4 overall seed), Pittsburgh, Stanford, Utah (No. 5 overall seed), and Valparaiso. The Irish were 4-5 against those teams.
The 12 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances is the second-longest current streak of any Notre Dame sport, behind fencing. Overall, the Irish have earned 13 berths, reaching the quarterfinals in 1993 and the round of 16 in ’94, ’95, and ’97. Notre Dame is 11-13 in the NCAAs.
This will be the seventh time — and third since 2000 — that the Irish will travel to a Big Ten Conference court for NCAA play. Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA Championship loss came in Urbana to Illinois in the second round of the 1988 tournament.
All-session tickets covering the first and second round matches go on sale starting Monday, Dec. 1 at 10 a.m., while single-match tickets go on sale Friday, Dec. 5 at 10 a.m. Fans can order tickets by calling the Illinois athletic ticket office at (217) 333-3470. Tickets will then be on sale at Huff Hall on Friday beginning at 4 p.m. All-session tickets are $12 for reserved (floor) seating and $10 for general admission (balcony) seating. Students can purchase an all-session general admission ticket for $6. Single-match tickets are $8 for reserved seating and $7 for general admission seating. Students can purchase a single-session general admission ticket for $5.
The top 16 teams were seeded nationally and placed within four regions. The teams tabbed as the top four seeds were USC, Hawaii, Florida and Pepperdine. 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.
The Big Ten led all conferences with seven teams selected. Four conferences landed six teams including the Big 12, Big West, Pacific-10 and West Coast. Four teams Pacific (California), Penn State, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara have earned bids to all 23 championships. Ten teams are making their initial appearances in the tournament: Dayton, Kansas, Murray State, New Mexico State, Nicholls State, Ohio, St. Mary’s (California), San Francisco, Valparaiso and Wisconsin-Green Bay.
In the 23-year history of the championship nine schools have been crowned champion, all of which are in this year’s bracket, including the defending champion Southern California. Additional past winners making the field are Stanford (1992, 94, 96, 97, 2001), Hawaii (1982, 83, 87), Long Beach State (1989, 93, 98), UCLA (1984, 90, 91), Pacific (California) (1985, 86), Nebraska (1995 and 2000), Southern California (1981, 2003) and Penn State (1999).