LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the 14th-consecutive season the Kentucky volleyball team is in the NCAA Tournament field vying for a national title. The Wildcats earned the No. 10 overall seed and will host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament beginning on Friday.
After going undefeated in the Southeastern Conference and winning the league title for the second straight season, the Wildcats’ run in the post season begins with a matchup against instate foe Murray State on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. Purdue and East Tennessee State will play on Friday at 5 p.m. The winner of the two matches will meet on Saturday at 7 p.m.
“Honored to be hosting and to be able to stay in our own gym the first couple of rounds, if we’re lucky enough to get through,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We’re looking forward to getting started with Murray State on Friday.”
Tickets for the first and second rounds can be found online at UKathletics.com/NCAATickets. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday at 2 p.m. for all-session tickets and Wednesday at 9 a.m. for single-session tickets. Volleyball season ticket holders will receive special access to purchase all-session tickets in advance of the general public on-sale date by logging in to My UK Account and selecting “Packages & Requests.” This exclusive presale will run from Sunday at 10 p.m. until Monday at 2 p.m. For complete ticket information, including prices and availability, visit UKathletics.com/NCAATickets.
Kentucky is making its program-record 14th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. The Wildcats are one of just 10 teams in the nation who have advanced to the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 14 seasons. UK last hosted the first and second rounds in Lexington a season ago. All told, Kentucky has hosted the NCAA Tournament 12 times in program history including the opening rounds six times under Skinner.
Kentucky’s opening round opponent is Murray State who earned the automatic bid for the Ohio Valley Conference after sweeping Austin Peay in the championship match. It marked the fifth OVC title for the Racers, who previously won in 2016, 2014, 2003, 1992 and 1989. Murray State finished the season 22-9 overall and 13-3 in league play. Rachel Giustino leads the offensive attack with an average of 4.06 kills per set. Becca Fernandez paces the defense with 4.99 digs per frame.
Purdue earned an at-large bid and is 23-8 overall on the year and went 12-8 in BIG 10 action. Sherrida Atkinson is the difference-maker offensively averaging 4.23 kills per frame at a .298 percent clip. Blake Mohler logs 1.06 blocks per frame and is averaging 2.42 kills per set on a .353 rate. Brooke Peters paces the backline defense with an average of 4.18 digs per set. The Boilermakers and Wildcats had similar opponents this season in Louisville and Alabama. Kentucky swept both opponents, while Purdue downed the Cardinals and five and also earned a sweep of the Tide.
East Tennessee State is making its second-straight appearance and third overall in the Lexington Regional after earning an at-large bid out of the Southern Conference. The Bucs were UK’s opening-round opponent a season ago, but will begin 2018 against Purdue. ETSU is 28-6 overall and 15-1 in league play. ETSU’s season includes compiling its most victories since 1983 and became the first team in SoCon history to earn an at-large bid. The Bucs are led by 4.03 kills per set from Leah Clayton and 5.25 digs per frame from Marija Popovic.
Kentucky played 10 teams who made the NCAA Tournament field, including four others from the SEC in Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee.