The Michigan volleyball team got an early Christmas present last night as the Wolverines were selected to participate in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
Michigan will face Kansas State in the first round at Ahern Field House in Manhattan, Kan. The Wolverines are in the East region, and if victorious, will face the winner of No. 12 Washington State and Oral Roberts University.
It was an ecstatic and very surprised team that saw its name on the big screen during the selection show last night.
“Yesterday after the match (Michigan coach) Mark (Rosen) told us we had a 10 to 15 percent chance,” junior captain Erin Moore said. “I thought it was even lower than that, but we got the wins we needed to get.”
Michigan got in on the strength of one of the toughest schedules in the country, and its Big Ten record of 10-10. It was also helped by Indiana losing Saturday night, which created a three-way tie for sixth place in the conference.
In addition, Michigan coach Mark Rosen has a good track record of going to the postseason as a coach, making the tournament in eight of his 10 seasons.
Rosen has led the Wolverines to the tournament three out of the last four years, narrowly missing a bid last year.
“We’ve come in with a mentality that making the NCAA tournament should be the minimum,” Rosen said.
The Wolverines finished the 2002 regular season campaign with a 16-14 overall record, including wins over NCAA Tournament-bound Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State.
The tournament committee recognized the strength of the Big Ten and chose eight teams from the conference, tying a record set in 1999 for most Big Ten teams selected. Indiana, Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin were also selected.
“We’ve always felt that this is a great conference, and it sends a strong message that we are one of the two best conferences in the country,” Rosen said.
Michigan has a 3-3 record in NCAA Tournament play. The last time Michigan was in the tourney was in 2000, when it beat Louisville in the first round but lost to then-No. 2 Arizona in the second round.
For the Wolverines’ lone senior Katrina Lehman, the announcing of the tournament draw was an intense couple of minutes to be sure.
“My palms were sweaty, and my heart was racing,” Lehman said. “When it came up, it was a sense of relief.”
Most of the team tried to be realistic in gauging their chances, but in their hearts they all seemed to believe.
“My head was saying that we’re not going to make it, but in my heart I knew we were going to make it,” Lehman said.
That belief is already carrying over into the preparation for the tournament. The Wolverines feel that they can play with anybody, and will get their chance to prove it.
“I definitely think we (deserved) it,” Moore said. “If we play our game, we’ll be fine.”