The NCAA Tournament gets underway on Thursday, Dec. 1, with the Oregon Ducks taking on the Miami Ohio RedHawks, and the No. 12 Michigan Wolverines taking on the American Eagles in the Ann Arbor portion of the tournament. Here’s a look at the highlights of each of the teams and their participating players to look for leading up to the games.
The Eagles are led by Patriot League player of the year and unanimous First team All-League sophomore Aleksandra Kazala. The team is coached by the 2016 Patriot League Coach of the Year Berry Goldberg. Freshman Vela McBride was named Rookie of the Year as well as second team All-League. Sophomore Kennedy Etheridge, junior Loren McKenzie and Kazala were named first team All-League.
American finished the year with a record of 27-7 and 15-1 in conference. The highlight of their non-conference schedule played one Pac-12 opponent, the Washington Huskies on Aug. 28. The Huskies prevailed 3-2 over American. This was the only ranked opponent the Eagles played this season.
The Wolverines get the home advantage playing in Ann Arbor for the first and potentially second round of the tournament. The team is led by senior middle blocker Abby Cole was named to the All-Big Ten team as a unanimous selection. Setter MacKenzi Welsh was named All-Freshman and was also named honorable mention for All-Big Ten team.
The Wolverines finished the regular season with a record of 22-10 including an 11-9 record in the Big Ten Conference. They faced a challenging schedule in the Big Ten conference this season, especially down the stretch heading towards the tournament. They were swept in season series against the No. 1 playoff seed Nebraska Cornhuskers and No. 3 playoff seed Wisconsin Badgers. They also lost their only matchup of the year against No. 2 playoff seed Minnesota Golden Gophers and No. 15 seed Michigan State Spartans on the road but split the season series with No. 16 playoff seed Penn State Nittany Lions.
The Ducks head to Ann Arbor senior Libero Amanda Benson and sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Vander Weide, who were named to the All-Pac-12 team. Junior outside hitter Taylor Agost, freshman outside hitter Jolie Rasmussen and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Page were named as honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 team. Freshman middle blocker Ronika Stone was also given honorable mention honors and was named to the all-freshman team. The Ducks finished the regular season 20-9, and had a 13-7 record in the Pac-12.
They faced a challenging schedule throughout the season that included losses to No. 4 NCAA seed Texas Longhorns, No. 6 seed Stanford Cardinal, No. 10 UCLA Bruins and No. 11 seed Florida Gators. They also split the season series with the No. 8 seed Washington Huskies and NCAA playoff teams Utah Utes, Arizona Wildcats and USC Trojans. They also swept an NCAA playoff team in the Washington State Cougars.
Miami (Ohio) RedHawks
The RedHawks look to their matchup against the Ducks led by a pair of All-Mid-American Conference First team members in senior middle hitter Paige Hill and junior outside hitter, Katie Tomasic. Junior libero Maeve McDonald and senior outside hitter Maris Below were named as All-MAC Honorable Mention.
For the RedHawks, the loss to Michigan was their only ranked opponent this season. They finished with a record of 24-6, including 15-1 in the Mid-American Conference. They take a 10-4 road record with them to Ann Arbor trying to take out the Ducks on their way to the second round. Of their 24 wins this season, 17 of them ended in 3-0 sweeps. They advanced to the conference tournament final but were swept by Northern Illinois.
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