Kansas volleyball earns spot in NCAA Tournament field for 2nd consecutive year, 11th time overall
photo by: Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics
The Kansas volleyball team is back in the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row and headed north again for a first-round matchup in Nebraska.
The Jayhawks (18-10) will take on No. 7 seed Miami (Fla.) (19-10) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Devaney Center on the campus of No. 2 seed and host school Nebraska.
A win in Thursday’s match would set up the potential for Kansas to match up with the perennial power Huskers in Round 2.
This year’s trip will mark the program’s 11th NCAA Tournament appearance and, really, was never in doubt, even if the wait during Sunday’s selection show was a little longer than anyone would’ve liked.
“There were 60 teams that were in and there were four teams that were left to be announced,” KU coach Ray Bechard told the Journal-World on Sunday night. “Even though we knew Lincoln hadn’t come up yet, there was a minute there where it was like, ‘Oh boy.’ But we felt pretty good about where we were and are excited to be in again.”
Despite dropping two of their final three matches of the regular season — including a road loss to No. 1 Texas — the Jayhawks maintained an RPI ranking of 23rd, which was third best in the Big 12 Conference.
In addition, the Big 12 was the nation’s No. 1-rated RPI conference, with powerhouses Texas and Baylor both earning the right to host during the opening weekend as a No. 1 seed and No. 4 seed, respectively.
Iowa State, which Kansas defeated on Senior Day last weekend, earned a No. 6 seed and TCU joined the Jayhawks as the fourth and fifth teams from the conference to make the field of 64.
“It’s good stuff,” Bechard said of getting back to the tournament. “I told our team it’s a privilege to be a part of this and we’ll prepare that way and go give it all we’ve got.”
If there’s one aspect of KU’s run to the tournament that’s more encouraging than the rest, it might be the fact that the Jayhawks were 4-0 in neutral-court matches this season.
KU also was 8-5 at home and 6-4 in true road games.
While the NCAA Tournament matches are technically neutral-site games, there’s no denying that a second-round matchup with Nebraska would very much be a true road game for the Jayhawks.
Getting to that point is the first goal, though, and this team features a bunch of players who have experience doing exactly that.
Last year, after getting into the tournament for the first time since 2017, the Jayhawks knocked off No. 19 Oregon in Round 1 and then defeated No. 20 Creighton on its home floor — in Nebraska — to advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in program history.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt that those that participated last year can draw upon that,” Bechard said Sunday.
Miami (Fla.) enters Thursday’s match with an RPI ranking of No. 32 — 7-3 at home, 7-5 on the road and 5-1 on neutral courts.
“They’re a good team out of a really good conference,” Bechard said of the Hurricanes. “But they’re not going to present any more issues than what we’ve seen in the Big 12. “This team’s excited about being part of the Big Dance again. Now we have to put together a good scouting report, practice hard and go see what we can do.”
Nebraska, which will take on Delaware State in Round 1, is the No. 7 team in the current RPI rankings.
The winners of those two matches will meet on Friday at the Devaney Center.