The stage is set

No. 3 seed Mustangs face No. 6 UNK in first round of the NCAA Central Region Tournament

Photo courtesy of WSC Athletic Communications Southwest Minnesota State middle blocker Emma VanHeel sets the ball during the No. 6 Mustangs’ straight-sets loss to Wayne State in Wayne, Neb. on Tuesday night.

ST. PAUL — Despite a first round lost in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament, the Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team secured a seed in the NCAA Tournament for the 17th time in program history and the first since 2018.

The NCAA national committee announced the 64-team field last Monday night with SMSU earning the No. 3 seed in the eight-team Central Region Tournament.

The tournament will take place in St. Paul, hosted by Concordia-St. Paul and played at CSP’s Gangelhoff Center starting today.

SMSU will face the University of Nebraska-Kearney in the first match of the tournament, with first serve set for noon today.

The winner of the match will advance to the region semifinals and play the winner of Wayne State (Neb.) and Minnesota Duluth.

SMSU and UNK will meet for the ninth time, with the Lopers winning six of the eight matches between the programs.

The most recent meeting between the programs happened on Nov. 20, 2014 in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Central Region Tournament. The Mustangs outlasted the Lopers in a tight five-set battle.

UNK declared victory in the first meeting in 1989 by a score of 2-0.

SMSU is 17-16 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, which includes one region championship and NCAA national runner-up finish in 2014. The Mustangs have advanced to the region championship match three times in program history (2011), 2014 and 2016).

The Mustangs first appearance in the NCAA Regionals took place in Fargo, N.D., in 2001. SMSU suffered a 3-0 loss to Augustana.

SMSU’s most recent NCAA Tournament appearance also ended in a loss in the quarterfinals. The Mustangs lost a five-set battle in 2018 to conference foe Concordia-St. Paul in Kearney, Neb.

SMSU enters the NCAA Tournament having nine meetings with nationally ranked teams this season compiling an 4-5 record.

The Mustangs have fared better against regional opponents, posting a 9-6 record against regionally-ranked squads.

The match will be broadcast on 107.5 FM The Fan.


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