South Dakota will open the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament against Missouri, the Coyotes learned as the NCAA announced the bracket on Sunday. The match is set for Wednesday, April 14, at 11 a.m.
USD (15-6) qualified for its second tournament in three seasons — and second overall — with a 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Denver in the tournament final on Saturday.
Missouri, 15-7, is one of 18 at-large teams in the 48-team field. The program from the Southeast Conference (SEC) qualified for a sixth straight NCAA Tournament, and has won at least one match in each of its last six appearances.
The Tigers enter the tournament with four straight victories, winning two each over Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
“We expect a battle,” USD head coach Leann Williamson said. “We expect to have to play at a high level. We’re excited about that matchup and what it can bring.”
The Tigers’ offense is powered by 6-4 senior outside hitter Kylie DeBerg, who averages 4.7 kills per set. She has also recorded 174 digs, 40 ace serves and 47 blocks (9 solo) on the season.
Sophomore Anna Dixon (3.0 k/s), sophomore Claudia Dillon (1.8 k/s, 59 blocks) and senior Dariana Hollingsworth-Santana (2.1 k/s) have also provided firepower for the Tigers. Junior Andrea Fuentes (10.2 a/s) has quarterbacked the attack. Freshman Emily Brown leads the floor defense with 286 digs.
The Coyotes will get back to practice on Tuesday, with the focus more internally than on the Tigers.
“One of the things we’ve bought into this year is focusing on our side of the net,” Williamson said. “We will do some things to prepare for Missouri, but we will be focused on ourselves.”
The field was reduced from its tradition 64 teams this year due to COVID-19 protocols. The entire tournament will be played in Omaha, Nebraska, April 14-24.
The Coyotes earned their way to Omaha with a pair of 3-2 victories in the Summit League Tournament, first avenging two losses to Kansas City then upending the top seed Denver in the final.
“Last weekend we showed how much resilience that we have,” said USD middle hitter Maddie Wiedenfeld, who will have the opportunity to play in the NCAA tournament in her hometown. “We know some teams would have folded in that situation.”
The winner of the USD/Missouri matchup will face ninth-seeded Ohio State in the second round, April 15 at 11 a.m. The tournament runs through April 24.
Follow @JCimburek on Twitter.