Kentucky Set to Face American in First Round of NCAA Tournament
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the 11th-consecutive season, the No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats will compete in the NCAA tournament, traveling to Columbus, Ohio, for the first round with a match against American University, the 2015 Patriot League champions. The winner will face either Ohio State or Robert Morris in the second round for the right to advance to the Lexington Region Dec. 11-12.
Kentucky and American will face off at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The Wildcats and Eagles have only faced one another once in the past, in which Kentucky fell in five sets in 2004. Ticket information and additional details regarding live stats, video and audio will be announced later this week.
“We’ve got a really competitive group here,” 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner said. “I feel like we’ve really ironed out some things the past few weeks in practice and we’ve got some momentum. They know it’s a long season and heading into the post season I think that they’re refreshed and ready to go.”
The Wildcats will travel to host Ohio State, an at-large bid from the BIG Ten and the No. 12 overall seed in the tournament. UK has an all-time record against the Buckeyes of 5-7, with the last meeting ending in a four-set loss in the second round of the 2014 NCAA tournament.
UK has never played Robert Morris, the winners of the Northeast Conference, in volleyball.
With the appearance, Kentucky reaches the NCAA tournament for the 17th time in program history. UK has advanced to the field of 64 in all 11 seasons under the direction of Skinner. UK joins Colorado State, Florida, Hawai’i, Nebraska, Penn State, Southern California, Stanford, Texas and Washington as the only other programs to advance to the tournament in each of the past 11 seasons.
The tournament berth provides a special opportunity, as Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 11-12. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., from the Lexington Region. This marks the third time in five seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.
The trip to the tournament adds on to the list of recent successes by the Wildcat program. The team has won at least 17 matches in each of the past 11 seasons, with the team reaching the 20-win mark in eight of the past nine years.
The Wildcats finish the regular season leading the conference in blocks per set and ranking second in opponent hitting percentage while ranking No. 19 in the nation in blocks per set. Additionally, sophomore middle Kaz Brown ranks No. 2 in the nation in blocks per set and third nationally in total blocks.
UK boasts four players who earned All-Southeastern conference recognition this season in senior Morgan Bergren, Brown and classmate Ashley Dusek and freshman Brooke Morgan. Dusek headlined the group, earning SEC Libero of the Year and being named to the All-SEC team. Brown and Bergren both were named to the All-SEC team, while Morgan made the SEC All-Freshman team. With the distinctions, Kentucky has now won five of the last six Libero of the Year awards and has placed at least one person on the All-Freshmen team in 11-straight seasons.