Action begins Friday, Nov. 30, at the NU Coliseum when the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (27-8) of the Sun Belt Conference take on the Wichita State Shockers of the Missouri Valley Conference (26-5) at 4:30 p.m. Nebraska (27-1) will play in the evening's second match and will take on the South Dakota State Jackrabbits (25-10) of the Summit League beginning at 7 p.m. or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first match.
The second round will take place on Saturday, Dec. 1, at 5 p.m., as Friday's winners will square off for a right to compete in the Madison (Wis.) Regional. Tickets for the first and second rounds in Lincoln are already sold out, but additional tickets may become available later in the week, as the other participating teams determine their ticket allotment.
The four predetermined regional sites for 2007 are Gainesville, Fla. (Florida), State College, Pa. (Penn State), Madison, Wis. (Wisconsin) and Palo Alto, Calif. (Stanford). The 2007 NCAA Championships will take place at Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif., next month.
The 2007 season marks the 23rd time that Lincoln has played host to first and second-round competition. Last year, Nebraska hosted the first and second rounds at the NU Coliseum before winning the Gainesville Regional en route to its third national title. Nebraska is 70-22 (.761) in 25 previous NCAA Tournament appearances, ranking second among NCAA schools in wins and winning percentage.
The Huskers were one of six Big 12 schools to qualify for the tournament. In addition to the Huskers, Texas was the No. 4 seed overall and is joined in the tournament by No. 12 Kansas State, No. 21 Oklahoma, Iowa State and Missouri.
The Huskers, who earned the Big 12's automatic berth with a 19-1 conference record, are 27-1 on the year and lead the nation in kills (18.00) and assists (16.63) per game and rank third nationally with a .330 team hitting percentage. The lineup is paced by returning AVCA National Player of the Year Sarah Pavan, who leads the Big 12 in kills (4.93), aces (0.53) and points (5.87) per game. A two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, Pavan is one of five returning All-Americans in the Husker starting lineup. NU also returns 2005 AVCA National Player of the Year Christina Houghtelling (3.18 kills and 4.05 digs per game) and All-Americans Jordan Larson (3.46 kills and 3.28 digs per game), middle blocker Tracy Stalls (2.79 kills per game on .474 hitting and 1.09 blocks per game) and setter Rachel Holloway (13.73 assists per game). Nebraska is 16-0 at home and has a school-record 70-match home winning streak dating back to 2004.
The Shockers were one of four Missouri Valley Conference teams to earn NCAA Tournament bids this season. WSU won the regular season title in the MVC, but were upset by Illinois State in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament. Sara Lungren, a senior outside hitter, was named MVC Player of the Year and averages 3.17 kills and 2.79 digs per game. The Shockers were in Lincoln three years ago in the NCAA Tournament before falling to the Huskers in the second round.
Western Kentucky becomes the first-ever Sun Belt team to earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The Hilltoppers finished second in the Eastern Division before falling to Middle Tennessee State in the title match. Megan Argabright leads WKU with 4.25 kills per game on .377 hitting and was a first-team All-Sun Belt selection, while Julia Noe also earned first-team all-conference honors after averaging 12.80 assists per game.
South Dakota State makes its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance against the Huskers on Friday night. The Jackrabbits are one of six first-time tournament qualifiers in the field of 64 and punched their ticket after downing IPFW in five games on Nov. 17. Outside hitter Kristina Martin (4.19 kills and 3.13 digs) and middle blocker Amy Anderson (3.57 kills and 1.42 blocks both garnered first-team All-Summit League selections this fall.
NCAA First and Second Round Schedule
Friday, Nov. 30
Western Kentucky (27-8) vs. Wichita State (26-5) 4:30 p.m. (central)
South Dakota State (25-10) vs. Nebraska (27-1) 7 p.m. (or 30 minutes following match 1)
Saturday, Dec. 1
Friday's Winners 5 p.m. (Winner advances to Madison Regional)