Cougars open NCAA Tournament play Friday

WSU takes on Northern Arizona as team hosts two rounds of tourney action for first time since 2001



Senior outside hitter Taylor Mims jumps to hit a set made by junior setter Ashley Brown during the match against Washington on Saturday in Bohler Gym. This is the team’s third consecutive year making it to the NCAA Tournament.

KATIE ARCHER , Evergreen reporter

No. 16 seed WSU volleyball will start NCAA Tournament play this week, hosting the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks at 7 p.m. Friday in Bohler Gym.

Due to being the No. 16 seed, WSU will host the first two rounds of the tournament for the first time since 2001. The Cougars (21-9, 12-8) qualified for the tourney for the third consecutive year.

Head Coach Jen Greeny said not having to travel makes a difference for the team.

“One of those goals that we had was we wanted to host [the tournament],” Greeny said. “You know, it was tough two years ago being sent to Wisconsin. Very good team, we lost to them and then lost to Nebraska last year. You want to set yourself up as best you can for success.”

The Cougars finished their 2017 season with a second-round loss to Nebraska 3-0 and in 2016 lost in the second round to Wisconsin 3-0. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin were the hosting schools and Nebraska was crowned the national champion last year.

Northern Arizona finished its regular season as the Big Sky Conference champion with an overall record of 26-8 and is on a 13-game win streak. The Lumberjacks are in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history and will be looking for their first tournament victory.

Greeny said the Cougars have a lot of confidence in facing a team like NAU that is used to winning, but it will be tough.

“It will for sure be a battle and it’s always interesting this time of year, you’re not real familiar with the teams you’re playing,” Greeny said.

To prepare for NAU, the team is working on serves and passing, Greeny said. If the team can serve well, it makes the opponent more predictable and WSU can set up an appropriate defense.

The Cougars will also host a first round match in the tournament prior to its own as Tennessee (25-5) will face Colorado State (23-7) at 4 p.m. Friday in Bohler Gym.

This will be Tennessee’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2012. Head Coach Eve Rackham led the Volunteers to the NCAA Tournament as a first-year head coach, the first to do so in program history.

The Rams won the Mountain West Conference for the 15th time and are making their 24th-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

The winner of the Tennessee and Colorado State game will play the winner of the WSU and NAU game at 6 p.m. Saturday in Bohler Gym.

Adult general admission tickets are $7 and there are free tickets for the first 250 students who show up to the match. Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket office before the game depending on availability.

The Cougars will look to use the home court advantage to grab a victory in the first round of the tourney at 7 p.m. Friday in Bohler Gym.