After clinching its first Southern States Athletic Conference title and avenging its only loss of the season Nov. 22 against Embry-Riddle in the first round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament, the College of Coastal Georgia volleyball team begins a five-day quest for a national title today.
It’s the first time in the program’s history that coach Jeff Huebner’s Mariners are in the national tournament, and they began with a bang with a first-round, 3-sets-to-1 win over a team they had never beaten in four previous tries.
Now, the 23rd-ranked Mariners (35-1) are one of 24 teams who will tip off at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa, for three days of pool play, but the slate for the Mariners is arduous. They will face fourth-ranked Biola University of California at 2 p.m. today, No. 9 Viterbo (Wis.) at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and No. 16 Madonna (Mich.) at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The top two teams from six pools will advance to a 12-team single elimination bracket on Friday, with the semifinals and championship game to be played Saturday.
The No. 4 Biola Eagles (28-4) earned a share of the Golden State Athletic Conference regular season championship with third-ranked Concordia. Both teams were 15-1 in the conference and split their regular season matchups. Biola is ranked second nationally in both assists per game (13.36) and kills per game (14.35).
Today’s matchup for the Mariners will also feature the two most efficient hitters in the country. Coastal freshman Maddie Bounds is second in hitting percentage (.423) only to Biola’s Amy Weststeyn (.445), the GSAC Player of the Year.
Offensively, the Mariners are ranked first with a .331 team hitting percentage, and Biola is ranked fifth at .290.
Coastal’s pool features other top-ranked players, including assist leader Spencer Stokes of Madonna, who has 1,815 assists on the season. Viterbo’s Brianna Brinkman is fifth with 1,530 assists, and Coastal’s Cayley Meiners is 10th with 1,466. Meiner, the SSAC Player of the Year, is ranked first in the nation with 12.4 assists per set.
Madonna (37-7) finished second in the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference and Viterbo (35-7) won the Midwest Collegiate Conference.
The NAIA Network will broadcast the first 46 matches of the national tournament online at no charge. Single-elimination matches will be available at $20 per match, while an all-tournament pass is offered for $75. ESPN3 will broadcast the championship match.
Coastal Georgia will hold a viewing party for today’s match at the Stembler Theatre in the Campus Center.
The Brunswick News