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Soaring into the NCAA Tournament

Soaring into the NCAA Tournament

NORMAL – After an undefeated home season, and a share of the Missouri Valley Conference Regular Season champion, the Redbirds are dancing their way into the NCAA Tournament.

For the first time since the 2014 season, the Illinois State Redbird volleyball team is making their way back to the NCAA Division I Tournament after receiving an at-large bid Sunday night.

Friday afternoon, the Redbirds will match up against the Cincinnati Bearcats at 4:30 p.m. in the Al McGuire Center at Marquette University.

“Pre-season we went into every match knowing how important it is for now,” said senior Courtney Pence. “We wouldn’t have been able to make it to the NCAA [Tournament] if we didn’t win those big games in pre-season. We need to go into every game the same and staying consistent with routines and relying on those routines to stay consistent.”

The last time these two teams met was in August of 2017 when the Redbirds won in five sets. Overall, Illinois State leads the all-time series 13-4 over the Bearcats.

“I think were we distinguish ourselves is that our transition game is good,” said head coach Leah Johnson. “We have a balanced offense, so where they lean on one or two, we lean on everyone. I think that’s where we have an advantage, we have six or seven attackers that can score when we need them too.”

Cincinnati comes from the American Athletic Conference where they wrapped up their season with a 25-7 record and 15-3 in conference play. The Bearcats are lead by outside hitter Jordan Thompson, who leads the country by averaging 6.28 kills per set.

“They will set her in every position,” said Johnson. “She fast and along and she knows how to score. But, we see that in our own conference. We have to understand that she’s going to get a lot of points on her own, we hope to steal some, mange a few and slow some down.”

Illinois State ended their Missouri Valley Conference season with a share of the Conference Championship title with the University of Northern Iowa. ISU and UNI were the two lone teams from the Valley to advance to the tournament, however, UNI fell in the first round Thursday night to Pepperdine University in five sets.

Other teams featured in the regional tournament include No. 14 national seed and host Marquette, who will face off against High Point at 7 p.m. Friday night. The winner of these matches will play on Saturday at 7 p.m. and the champion of the sub-regional will advance to the third and fourth round on December 7th and 8th.

For live coverage of the Redbirds and the NCAA Tournament, follow WZND on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @WZND and @WZNDSports for live updates.

Julie Martin

November 29th, 2018

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