ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - After a two-year hiatus, the UCF volleyball team will make its return to the postseason. On Sunday night, the Knights accepted an at-large bid to play in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC). UCF will face UNC Greensboro on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. in Athens, Ga.
?? WE'RE IN ??
We've accepted a bid to play in the @WomensNIVC!
Our journey to the ?? starts on Tuesday in Athens, Georgia! #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/80xngpuLrT -- UCF Volleyball (@UCF_Volleyball) November 27, 2017
"We feel like we've been in postseason mentality for last three weeks," head coach Todd Dagenais said. "That six-match run at the end of the regular season showed that this team was thinking about postseason for a long time. They played every match like it could be their last, and that mentality proves that we're already in a good place heading into the tournament. I'm very proud that our team overachieved significantly and earned one of only 13 at-large bids to the tournament.
"I think the selection committee looked at our schedule, which was a Top 75 schedule in the nation. They looked at our significant wins and saw how well we were playing over the final 10 matches. They deemed us worthy of an invitation to the NIVC. I could not be more happy that Taylor Wickey and Kia Bright get to go back to the postseason, and that Miranda Watkins will get to enjoy that same experience. No matter who we play, this will be critical for our younger players to get a taste of the postseason, as they set their sights on higher goals in the years to come."
This marks the Knights' 13th appearance in the postseason. UCF competed at the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) National Tournament from 1977 to 1980, winning the program's lone national championship in 1978. The Knights reached the NCAA Tournament eight times, with the last appearance back in 2014.
This year, the Knights posted a 19-13 record in the regular season and a 12-8 mark in the American Athletic Conference. The Black and Gold finished the conference slate with six straight wins, including five sweeps. UCF was the only team in The American to take league champions Wichita State to five sets. Outside hitters Kia Bright and Kristina Fisher were both named The American Offensive Player of the Week during the regular season.
"None of this would be possible without the unwavering support of our sport administrator Brad Stricklin," Dagenais added. "Starting at the top with Danny White, it's their belief in our program that has made this possible."
UCF holds a perfect 4-0 record over UNC Greensboro. The last contest between the two clubs came back in 2011. On the other side of the bracket, host Georgia will face Alabama A&M in the nightcap. The Knights last played Georgia in 2004, but have a 6-4 advantage over the Bulldogs. The Black and Gold and Alabama A&M have never met in competition.
The NIVC is making its return after a 22-year break, with an original run from 1989 to 1995. The 2017 tournament will consist of 32 teams with participating schools hosting all matches. Eight participating schools will each host four schools in Rounds 1 and 2 slated for Nov. 28-30. Round 3 will take place Dec. 1-3, Semifinals (Dec. 4-9), and Championship on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. ET, to be streamed live on ESPN3.
Much like the WNIT and NIT events in college basketball, the NIVC taps into the impressive depth of D-I volleyball and is designed to give more high-performing, highly skilled programs a chance to play for a postseason title. Teams with young rosters get to train and compete with an eye to the future; established rosters get one more chance to play together and memorably cap off their student-athlete experience.
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