VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – The Virginia Wesleyan University volleyball team is set to compete in its first ever NCAA Division III Championship on Friday as the squad travels to the Newport News, Va. Regional. The Marlins will square off against Juniata College in the opening round, a match that will take place at 12:30 p.m. on Friday on the campus of Christopher Newport University.
Joining the Marlins and Eagles in the top of the pod is Trinity University (Texas) and Hunter College. In the bottom half the bracket host Christopher Newport will take on Stevenson University while Randolph-Macon squares off against Marymount University.
Tickets for the event are as follows: Students - $6 / Adults - $8
HOW WE GOT HERE: It has been a historic season for the Marlins as the team defeated top-seeded Randolph-Macon to earn the program's first ever Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) Championship Title and the automatic bid into the Tournament. The Marlins currently hold a record of 28-7, which is the most wins in program history breaking 2015's record of 25 victories.
BLOCK PARTY (and EVERYONE is invited): One of the Marlins' strong suits this season has been their defensive play at the net. The squad ranks in the top-20 nationally in numerous blocking categories, including 12th in total blocks (246.5) and 19th in blocks per set (2.05). Middles Sydney Collins and Amber Matalus have been instrumental in this statistical category as Collins ranks 23rd in the nation for total blocks (112) and Matalus 62nd (96).
CAN YOU DIG IT?!: Aiding that defensive play at the net has been some tremendous back row defense. The Marlins have dug the second most balls in the ODAC this season, registering 1,956 so far. Leading the charge has been senior libero Alyssa Taylor, who's 503 digs ranks fourth among ODAC players. Taylor also reached the 1,000 dig mark this season, becoming the 10th Marlin to do so.
HOOVER'S HARDWARE: After leading the Marlins to its first ever ODAC Championship Title, Coach Andrea Hoover-Erbig was tabbed the conference's Coach of the Year. Currently standing on a career-record of 281-160 (all with VWU), Hoover-Erbig earned her second career CoY accolade, earning her other in 2008. This season, she not only broke the program wins record but also coached five players to All-Conference teams which is the most All-ODAC selections ever.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY: The defense has been stellar this season, but the offense has packed perhaps a bigger punch. Hitting at a conference-leading clip of .230, the Marlins 1,535 kills is the 23rd most across Division III. Four different Marlins have reached the 200-kill plateau this season led by Matalus' 353.
HOW JUNIATA GOT HERE: Much like Virginia Wesleyan, the Eagles gained entry to the NCAA Tournament via automatic bid as the team dropped Susquehanna University, 3-0, in the Landmark Conference Championship. Currently ranked #22 in the nation, the Eagles boast a record of 22-8 on the season and have won eight of their last 10. Juniata had five members named to the AVCA All-Region Team, including freshman middle Emma Davis who was tabbed the Region's Rookie of the Year.
HOW TRINITY (TX) GOT HERE: Another automatic qualifier was the Tigers of Trinity, who dropped Colorado College, 3-1, in the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) Championship final. The highest-nationally ranked team in the pod, the No. 7 Tigers bring a 33-4 record to Newport News, Va. and haven't lost a match since October 5th. On the court, Trinity runs a clean offense as it ranks No. 1 in the nation in total assists (1,681). The Tigers rival the Marlins net presence as well, accruing 291.5 blocks on the season which is the second-most in the nation.
HOW HUNTER GOT HERE: No strangers to the NCAA Tournament, the Hawks earned their sixth-straight automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as they collected their sixth-straight City University of New York Athletic Conference (CUNYAC) with a win over Brooklyn College in the Finals. Despite their 14 NCAA appearances though, Hunter has yet to earn a win Tournament win. Aiding the Hawks this season has been CUNYAC First Teamer Kylie Hurst, who leads her team with 320 kills.
THE BOTTOM HALF OF THE BRACKET: In the bottom of the bracket, the Marlins find plenty of familiar faces. Randolph-Macon (25-8) collected an at-large bid as VWU dropped them in the ODAC Championship Final. They will take on Marymount (24-10) who made its way into the tournament after winning the Atlantic East Title over Neumann, earning the automatic qualifier. Making up the other side is Christopher Newport University (26-8) and Stevenson (29-2), both of which earned automatic bids.