Volleyball conference tournament preview

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COURTESY OF UNO ATHLETICS
COURTESY OF UNO ATHLETICS

By Andrew Nelson
CONTRIBUTOR

Mavericks volleyball will make its first appearance in the SummitLeague conference tournament this weekend in Denver, Colo.

The now fully-transitioned University of Nebraska at Omaha will be entering its first post-season tournament at theDivision I level as the No. 3 seed.

The tournament kicks off Friday evening at Hamilton Gymnasium, where 2014 Summit League regular season co-champion, and tournament champion Denver will be hosting.

The Pioneers have been in the tournament championship game the past two seasons, losing to Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2013, before defeating them in the rematch last year to advance to the NCAA tournament.

Denver and IUPUI have been regulars in the Summit League postseason volleyball tournament. Now,a new Omaha squad is added to the mix, as well as always competitive squads in Oral Roberts, South Dakota, and North Dakota State, each of whom have made post-season stops in the conference tournament multiple times in the past few years.

Denver enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed, and IUPUI received the No. 2 seed and both teams will have first-round byes. Omaha will take on sixth-seeded South DakotaFriday night at 8:30 p.m. where the winner will meet IUPUI Saturday at 8:30 p.m.

Fourth-seeded Oral Roberts will meet fifth-seeded North DakotaState 6 p.m. Friday in a rematch of last weekend’s regular season conference finale for the two teams.The winner will advance to playDenver Saturday night at 6 p.m. Thechampionship game is slated for 3 p.m. Sunday.

No. 1 DENVER:
Record: 25-6 (13-3) Key Player: Sarah Schmid

Schmid has been efficient for thePioneers all season leading the league in hitting percentage with a.437 clip. She also leads the conference in blocks per set with 1.32 for aPioneer team that leads the conference with 286 blocks.

No. 2 IUPUI:
Record: 21-9 (12-4) Key Player: Kaitlyn Hickey

The Jaguars stopped Omaha from claiming a part of the regular sea-son championship last weekend, and Hickey’s double-double performance was partly why with 17 kills and 15 digs. She is currently second in the conference in kills per set averaging 3.94, and third in overall kills with 441 on the season. The Jaguars have been in the tournament championship game the past two seasons winning it in 2013.

No. 3 OMAHA:
Record: 17-12 (12-4) Key Player: Sydney O’Shaughnessy

O’Shaughnessy earned her 20th and 21st double-double of the year last weekend, and she’ll look to bolster that this weekend. She is third in the conference averaging 10.22 assists per set. Senior libero Kimberly Bailey will also be a player to watch on the defensive side. She is averaging 4.61 digs per set for Maverick squad that leads the conference with 1967 digs. This will be the Mavericks first ever post-season tournament in school history.

No. 4 ORAL ROBERTS:
Record: 14-14 (9-6) Key Player: Laura Milos

Oral Roberts leads the conference with 172 service aces, and 52 of those belong to Laura Milos. She leads the conference with 565 kills averaging 5.18 kills per set. The Golden Eagles return to the tournament for the second-straight year as the No. four seed since returning to the Summit League.

No. 5 NORTH DAKOTA STATE:
Record: 18-11 (8-7) Key Player: Emily Minnick

Minnick leads the conference in solo blocks with 23 stops at the net,with 85 total blocks on the year. She also has an impressive hitting percentage of .323 which is fifth-best in the conference.The Bison are the fifth-seed for the second-straight season. NDSU hasn’t locked in a higher seed in the Summit League Tournament since being the No.1 seed in 2011.

No. 6 SOUTH DAKOTA:
Record: 14-15 (8-8) Key Player: Kelsey Bitloft

The Coyotes have gotten plenty of blocks out of Bit loft this season with 122 total blocks on the year which is third in the conference.The Coyotes have 193 blocks as ateam. USD was the No. 3 seed a season ago in a field that featured each team besides Omaha.

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