#20 Kentucky Set for NCAA Tournament Run
Dec. 3, 2008
LEXINGTON, Ky. -The University of Kentucky volleyball team is set to make its fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament run when they welcome Michigan to Memorial Coliseum, Thursday at 7 p.m. The match between the Wildcats and Wolverines will mark the second match of the first day of competition as Saint Louis and Alabama A&M begin play at 5 p.m.
The Wildcats (26-5) are improving upon their record breaking NCAA streak of tournament appearances. Last year's three straight selections was a school record, which makes Craig Skinner the only Kentucky coach to lead his team to post-season play in every season he has coached.
UK is making its 10th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in school history. They hold an overall 8-9 record in tournament action and have advanced to the Regional Finals twice in school annals. Last season the Blue and White fell in the opening round of play to Michigan State in Dayton, Ohio. This is the first time Kentucky will open play at home since 1993, and it marks the seventh time in UK history they have hosted the NCAA Tournament. The UK's last NCAA Tournament victory came in 2006 when the Wildcats upset 20th-ranked Ohio 3-2, before falling to Purdue in the second round.
Kentucky's junior setter Sarah Rumely was named the Southeastern Conference's Volleyball Player of the Year announced earlier this week. She led five Wildcats on All-SEC teams, a record-breaking total for UK.
Last Friday, Kentucky closed out their Southeastern Conference slate with a 17-3 mark finishing second overall in the standings. UK set the most victories in SEC play in school history, and tied it its best finish in conference action since finishing second in 1990. Skinner has finished in the top-five in the SEC in each of his four seasons at the helm. The Wildcats are one of four SEC teams in this year's NCAA Tournament field.
During the season, Memorial Coliseum had two record-setting crowds. Against Tennessee Kentucky drew the seventh-largest crowd of 3,021 fans. The fifth largest crowd in Kentucky history of 3,512 fans watched the Wildcats snap a 38-match losing streak to Florida in a five-set come-from-behind victory.
UK's first round match-up features the fifth place team in the Big Ten Conference. Michigan is led by Juliana Paz and Beth Karpiak who both average over three kills per set. Their setter Lexi Zimmerman is outstanding and distributes the ball well to the tune of 11.44 assists per frame.
The Wildcats and Wolverines have faced three times in school history, with UK holding a 2-1 series record over Michigan. Their last meeting came in 1992, and Kentucky came away with a 3-0 sweep.
Both UK and Michigan have faced a few similar opponents this season. The Wolverines got early season victories over SEC members Arkansas and Auburn. UK captured 3-0 victories against both SEC members during their conference slate. Kentucky also earned a 3-1 win over Indiana in the early-going, a team Michigan defeated twice during the season. Both teams dropped a match to Wisconsin, with both teams also claiming a victory over Albany.
UK's potential second round opponents are Saint Louis and Alabama A&M.
Saint Louis won the Atlantic 10 Championship with a 28-4 overall record and a perfect 13-0 record in A-10 action. The Billikens have two players average over three kills per stanza and they average over an ace per set as a squad. Kentucky and St. Louis have never met on the volleyball court before in school history. The Billikens got a quality early win over then No. 3 Stanford in a 3-1 victory, and are currently on a 20-match winning streak.
Alabama A&M won an automatic bid after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference's tournament with an overall record of 14-16 and a 6-2 conference clip. Three players average over two kills a set for the Lady Bulldogs led by Karensa Beckford's 2.34 a frame. Alabama A&M would be a first-time match-up for the Blue and White should both teams advance to the second round.
Fans are encouraged to park in Parking Structure 5 located next to Kennedy's Bookstore on Limestone Avenue. Parking within Parking Structure 5 will be available free of charge. A shuttle bus service also will be provided and begins one hour prior to match time until one hour after the last match of the day. Additional match day parking is available in the E lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum including the Martin Luther King Parking Lot and the Student Center Parking Lot. The R lot (residential), directly north of the Joe Craft Center is not available for event parking, vehicles will be subject to ticket/tow.
Free video streaming of all three matches and live stats are available at UKathletics.com.
For more information about the tournament please visit the NCAA Tournament Central section of Kentucky's official homepage.