Nov. 26, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - For the third consecutive year and ninth time in school history, the University of Tennessee volleyball team (19-11) has earned a berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Vols will host No. 25 Duke (28-3), Jacksonville State (24-4) and the tournament's 16th-seeded team, No. 17 San Diego (24-5), for the first and second rounds. The Gamecocks and Toreros will open play at 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, in Stokely Athletics Center, while the Big Orange and Blue Devils will follow at 7 p.m. The winner of both matches will square off at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2, for the right to move on to the Gainesville, Fla. Regional.
"We are extremely excited that we have been given the opportunity to host," UT head coach Rob Patrick said. "All three teams coming in are very talented and have had a lot of success this year. We will have our work cut out for us, but we are looking forward to the challenge."
"Getting to host for the third straight year was very important to us," Patrick said. "It is great to have another chance to play in front of our amazing fans and is a reward for the hard work that our team has put in all year."
Home-court advantage has played a critical role in the Big Orange's NCAA Tournament success in each of the last two seasons, as it has claimed victories in all four tournament matches contested in Stokely Athletics Center during that span.
In 2004, UT defeated Eastern Kentucky and No. 18 Texas A&M at home, before falling in five to No. 7 Ohio State in the Regional Semifinals in Minneapolis, Minn. Last season, the Orange and White opened its run to the Final Four with another pair of home victories, knocking Jacksonville State and No. 17 Minnesota out of the tournament. It then upset No. 2 Penn State and No. 8 Missouri in the State College Regional prior to ending its season with a loss to eventual national champion No. 3 Washington in the National Semifinals in San Antonio, Texas.
Each of the three teams set to travel to Rocky Top claimed their respective conference titles this season, as Duke won the Atlantic Coast Conference, Jacksonville State was undefeated in Ohio Valley Conference play and San Diego finished at the top of the West Coast Conference standings.
The Lady Vols are one of a record-setting seven teams from the Southeastern Conference in the tournament. The previous high of six SEC squads was set last season. Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama and Ole Miss were also named part of this year's field of 64. Only two other leagues, the Big Ten and Pac-10, have as many teams in the tournament as the SEC, with seven each as well.
The winner of Saturday's match will head to the Sweet 16 in Gainesville, Fla., set to take place from Dec. 8-9. The regional winners will advance to the National Semifinals and Final hosted by the University of Nebraska at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., on Dec. 14 and 16, respectively.