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19th straight NCAA run brings Lopers to big dance


Lopers tally fourth MIAA title, third tourney championship, trip to DII regionals Nov. 30

David Mueller

Antelope Staff

The now sixth-ranked Nebraska-Kearney volleyball team is in the NCAA Tournament for a 19th straight season and will battle Missouri Western State in the first round of the Central Regional on Thursday, Nov. 30 in Marshall, Minn.

The regional, hosted by No. 2 Southwest Minnesota State, will be held at the PE Gym. The Mustangs swept two-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul in the NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) Tournament finals Sunday in St. Paul to earn the right to host the regional. Match times will be announced on Tuesday.

The 64-team NCAA field, eight schools from each of Division II’s eight regions, was announced Nov. 20.

UNK is 27-21 all-time in the NCAA’s, advancing to the Elite Eight in 2005, 2004, 2003, 1996 and 1995. The Lopers also reached the regional finals on four other occasions but are currently riding a five-match NCAA losing streak. Its last NCAA win came in the second round of the 2012 regional.

The Lopers’ 19-year NCAA run trails only the University of Tampa (1996-present). The Spartans have now made the “Big Dance” 22 straight years.

The Central Region is far and away the best in the country as it features Concordia, winners of eight of the last 10 national titles, and 10 other nationally-ranked teams. The Top 25 teams left out of the regional this year are No. 13 Winona State, No. 16 Augustana, No.19 Central Missouri and No. 22 Wayne State.

The third-seeded Lopers (33-3) and sixth-seeded Griffons (24-10) will meet for the fourth time this year and for the third time since November 11. UNK beat Mo West in four sets in Kearney during the regular season and last Saturday night in the MIAA Tournament finals. The Griffs handed the Lopers a 3-1 loss on its home court in the regular season finale.

The UNK/MWSU winner takes on either CSP or Central Oklahoma. The eight region winners advance to the Elite Eight, held Dec. 7-9 at the University of West Florida in Pensacola.

No. 3 seed UNK received an automatic bid from the MIAA and will play No. 6 seed Missouri Western State Thursday, Nov. 30

Video at Antelope

David Mueller

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