Iowa State and UNI will open the NCAA volleyball tournament this weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. The Cyclones will take on the University of San Diego in Friday’s opening round. ISU is 17-13 and this is the Cyclones second straight at large bid.
Coach Christy Johnson says a key was their ability to win close matches. Iowa State finished 4-2 in the conference in matches that went five games. She says when she first got to Ames, they were not winning the close matches, and she’s proud they’ve turned it around.
Johnson says the outcomes of close matches determine how successful a season is, as you have to win them to no be just a middle of the pack team. UNI will take on ninth ranked Wisconsin in the opening round. The Panthers will try to avenge an early season loss to the Badgers.
UNI coach Bobbi Peterson says they don’t look at that match as an indicator, as you get better during the season. Peterson says it’s a great place to go with a great atmosphere. The Panthers are a much different team than the one that was swept by the Badgers. Peterson says they’ve stepped up a lot of areas of the game and the overall confidence of the team is much better.
UNI earned an automatic bid to the dance by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. The Panthers are one of a record four league teams in the NCAA tourney, joining regular-season champ Wichita State, Illinois State, and Missouri State in the 64-team field. Petersen is happy the MVC got three at-large bids.
Peterson says that says a lot for the conference as the most they’ve had in the past is two bids. She says it’s a big statement about how the quality of the volleyball has grown. If the Cyclones and Panthers both win they will meet in the second round. Peterson says it would be "awesome" to have two state schools fighting to go to the Sweet 16.